By Elise Ackerman
WASHINGTON - All 535 prisoners being held at the Guantánamo Bay prison will be given
military hearings to decide whether they are being wrongly held as ``enemy combatants,'' the Pentagon announced Wednesday.
The detainees, some of whom have been held for more than two years, will be told of the new procedures by July 17. They were established in response to a landmark Supreme Court ruling last week that the president cannot indefinitely detain terror suspects without a neutral review.
Under the new policy, in an order signed by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, each prisoner will be told the factual basis for his detention -- provided the information isn't classified -- and be allowed to present evidence and call witnesses to rebut it, Pentagon and Justice Department officials said.
The Pentagon said the prisoners also could appeal their detention in federal court. But a Justice Department official told reporters the new procedures would provide detainees with sufficient due process to prevent a federal judge from ordering their release.
``The government will be in a position to say that we fully satisfied our legal obligations,'' said the official, who spoke on condition he not be identified.
Under the new policy, each prisoner will be assigned a ``personal representative'' who will have access to all non-classified information in the prisoner's file. The representative will help the detainee prepare for a hearing before a three-member panel, which will decide whether the detainee has been properly detained as an enemy combatant.
If the panel determines the detainee didn't support Al-Qaida, the Taliban or any other group engaged in hostile activities against the United States, the State Department will send him home.