A group of Iowans will be in the nation’s capital this week to demand that the administration empty out a prison camp that’s held hundreds of people without charges or trial for over five years. Brian Terril is director of the Catholic Peace Ministry in Des Moines. He says eight Iowans from the ministry are going to Washington, D.C. to take part in a national gathering to call for the closing of the prison at Guantanamo.
The U.S. military base in Cuba holds hundreds of people rounded up in the Middle East shortly after the terrorist attacks of 9-11. There are about 420 prisoners there, though Terrill says formal charges have only been filed against a number of prisoners that’s "in the single digits." None of the prisoners are headed to court, either — he says they’re being held indefinitely, under conditions described as abusive by human-rights organizations, and the protesters intend to go and "represent them, in a way," he says.
There are people coming from all over the United States, the Iowan says. In the nation’s capital, lawyers will help them write up legal papers and they hope to have one volunteer for each detainee, more than 400 people, to go to the district court in Washington to file the writs of habeas corpus on behalf of each of the prisoners. The orders to show cause for holding a prisoner are part of American constitutional law, but he says they’re fighting a declaration made early on in the emotional aftermath to Nine-Eleven.
"The president has said, and the congress, unfortunately, has agreed, that these prisoners do not have a right…to have their detention reviewed by a court." He says 400 people will wait in the U.S. courthouse for as long as it takes. "If the authorities construe that as trespassing, we may be risking arrest." He says abusing prisoners is not the way to defend the country, and does nothing to enhance our reputation abroad or protect U.S. soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan. The Iowa group expects to arrive in Washington today (Tuesday).