House candidates disagree on interrogation law

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(Host) Democratic U.S. House candidate Peter Welch and Republican candidate Martha Rainville have very different views about a new law that creates new rules for the prosecution and interrogation of suspected terrorists.

The measure was passed by Congress last month and was signed into law by President Bush yesterday.

The plan establishes a system of military tribunals for terror suspects and it strips the jurisdiction of federal courts to hear petitions from the suspects to challenge their imprisonment.

Speaking last night on VPR’s Switchboard U.S. House debate, Martha Rainville said she supports the new law:

(Rainville) “I believe it does a couple of very important things. I believe that first of all gives a process now so that enemy combatants can have some due process. They can have representation. They can have a military trial with a nine member panel and nine member commission. They have the right to legal counsel. They have a right to hear testimony. They have a right to see evidence against them. That’s an important step.”

(Host) But Peter Welch said he opposed the bill because it denied suspected terrorists of some basic legal rights.

(Welch) “We have a serious problem of terrorism. We’ve got to take appropriate actions to protect America. I believe we can do that without shredding our Constitution. And the big hole in this bill is it eliminates the so-called “right of habeas corpus”. It essentially gives unlimited power to a president of the United States to decide unilaterally that person a b or c shall be picked up and then held incommunicado indefinitely without charges and without right of judicial review.”

(Host) Liberty Union candidate Jane Newton strongly opposed the new law. She says any measure that allows the torturing of suspected terrorists clearly demonstrates that the war on terrorism has become a failure.

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