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Detainees’ treatment scrutinized

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GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba — The treatment of detained terrorist suspects from the Afghanistan war is getting more scrutiny from the international community and a federal judge in Los Angeles.

U.S. District Judge A. Howard Matz set a Tuesday hearing for a petition filed by a coalition of Los Angeles clergy, journalism professors and civil rights attorneys, including former Attorney General Ramsey Clark.

The first court challenge of the detention of al-Qaida suspects at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base demands that the U.S. government bring the suspects before a court and define the charges against them.

The European Union joined a chorus of protests from the Netherlands, British legislators, Amnesty International and the International Committee of the Red Cross demanding that the detainees be given prisoner-of-war status subject to the Geneva Conventions. Sweden called Monday for fair treatment for a Swedish captive.

"In the fight (against terrorism) we need to uphold our norms and values," said Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Jozias van Aartsen. "That applies to prisoners, too."

Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair tried to defuse London press accusations of torture at the base, saying through a spokesman Monday that three Britons among the detainees say they have no complaints about their treatment.

The number of detainees at the base in remote Cuba rose to 158 with Monday's arrival of 14 battle-scarred fighters on stretchers, including two amputees and three with infections requiring surgery.

The military C-141 cargo plane bringing them here was the sixth flight transporting detainees from the U.S. base at Kandahar in Afghanistan, where 218 detainees remain. The 14 prisoners were carried from the aircraft on stretchers by Marines in yellow rubber gloves and turquoise surgical masks.

The Marines seemed to frisk the captives before carrying them to a bus. The detainees wore blacked-out goggles and orange jumpsuits, and appeared to have their arms strapped to their bodies.

"They were restrained in a manner appropriate, in a way that would not aggravate their medical conditions," Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Brendan McPherson said.