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Law groups want Pentagon official fired
Yahoo News/Reuters
By JoAnne Allen
January 16, 2007

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A senior Pentagon official should be fired for suggesting a boycott of American law firms defending detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, four law organizations said in a letter to President Bush on Tuesday.

Charles Stimson, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs, said last week in a Washington radio interview he found it "shocking" that major U.S. law firms would agree to represent Guantanamo detainees pro bono.

Stimson predicted that those firms would suffer financially once their involvement in Guantanamo cases was known to their corporate clients. He then listed law firms involved in Guantanamo cases.

Stimson's remarks were aimed at "chilling the willingness" of lawyers to represent Guantanamo detainees and were contrary to the "bedrock principles" of the right to counsel and the presumption on innocence, read the letter signed by the American Association of Jurists, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, the National Lawyers Guild and the Society of American Law Teachers.

"The threats by Mr. Stimson are not subtle. They imply these pro bono lawyers are terrorists," the letter read. "The administration must not only disavow these remarks, but Mr. Stimson should be publicly admonished and relieved of his duties for making these allegations and threats."

Stimson was not immediately available for comment. The Pentagon last week disavowed Stimson's comments, which came under fire in the legal community.

The American Civil Liberties Union condemned what it called an administration attack on lawyers representing the detainees. Neal Sonnett, president of the American Judicature Society, said Stimson's remarks were a "blatant attempt to intimidate lawyers and their firms."

Col. Moe Davis, chief prosecutor for the Guantanamo tribunals, told journalists at there in March 2006 that several major law firms that have defense contractors as paying clients are providing pro bono lawyers to defend Guantanamo detainees in habeas petitions.

"It's somewhat ironic that the weaponry that we use in the war on terrorism is helping fund the defense of the alleged terrorists," Davis said at the time.

About 50 U.S. federal public defenders are also representing Guantanamo detainees, pro bono, in habeas corpus petitions.

About 395 prisoners remain at the Guantanamo prison camp, suspected of al Qaeda and Taliban links. More than 770 captives have been held at the facility which opened five years ago, soon after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in response to the September 11 attacks. Only 10 detainees have charged with crimes.

(Additional reporting by Jane Sutton)

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