Bush lobbies Spanish prime minister
WASHINGTON -- U.S. President George W. Bush is expected to put the case for military tribunals to Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar when the pair meet in Washington on Wednesday.
Spain has refused to extradite al Qaeda suspects to the United States, partly because it finds the prospect of secret trials by such tribunals unacceptable.
Spain recently arrested 14 suspects allegedly linked to Osama bin Laden. Several of those in custody are believed to have given the hijackers logistical support.
Spanish officials say European Union directives prevent the detainees' extradition anywhere they would face a death penalty or trial by military court.
Bush has approved military tribunals for non-American terrorism suspects, and he strongly favors the death penalty.
Bush signed an order this month allowing the Pentagon to form military courts to try non-citizens suspected of terrorism.
White House lawyers say military tribunals could be conducted in secret outside the United States to protect against retaliation and the exposure of intelligence sources.
On Tuesday, the U.S. formally requested the extradition from the UK of an Algerian pilot who U.S. officials say helped train some of the hijackers of the September 11 terror attacks.
Lotfi Raissi, 27, was detained on September 21 under Britain's anti-terror act. However, no charges linking him to the terror attacks have been filed.
Speaking Monday of his session with the Spanish prime minister, Bush said he looked forward to explaining why he made the decision on military courts.
"It makes sense for national security purposes," Bush said. "It makes sense for the protection of potential jurors, and it makes sense for homeland security."
The prime minister's office told The Associated Press that Aznar hoped to find a compromise in Washington that would allow extradition.
Spain has offered the United States use of its air space and military bases for use in the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan.
Defense Minister Frederico Trillo told parliament on Monday that he was committing 13 transport planes, including half the Spanish air force's Hercules C-130s, to take humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.
The Bush administration said Tuesday it was untroubled by Spain's refusal to extradite suspects.
"Nobody asked Spain to extradite anybody, so it's not a relevant issue," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters.
He said he knew of no plans to ask Spain to do so and would not answer a question about whether the U.S. would grant Spain or other countries assurances that suspects would not face either a military trial or capital punishment.
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