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Navy halts commercial flights to Cuba

March 18, 2013 at 1:27 PM   |   Comments

MIAMI, March 18 (UPI) -- The U.S. Navy has ordered a commercial flight service to cease flights to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, citing a long overlooked regulation.

Capt. John Nettleton ordered the Florida flier IBC Travel to quit service to the naval base by April 5, although the Navy had given them until May 1 to comply with its directive, The Miami Herald reported Monday.

Commercial flights from one small service or another have made the trips to and from Guantanamo since the 1980s, the newspaper said.

However, "after a detailed review of Federal Regulations it has been brought to the attention of the installation commanding officer that allowing IBC Airways to operate out of NS Guantanamo Bay is a violation of regulation 32CFR766," a spokeswoman for the base Kelly Wirfel said in an email.

Wirfel said lawyers, journalists and Red Cross volunteers can fly to the base on the weekly military flight from Andrews Air Force base near Washington, D.C. Permission to take the flight must come from the Defense Department's Office of Military Commissions, she said.

Civilian workers at the base can fly to Guantanamo for a fee on a military shuttle between Jacksonville, Fla., and Norfolk, Va., the newspaper said.

The base is famously home to 166 military prisoners, who were granted access to legal representation by the Supreme Court in 2004.

"Of late, the Defense Department has been trying to restrict lawyers' access to imprisoned clients who do not have pending cases, it has been violating the attorney-client privilege, and now it is eliminating the only non-military route to Guantanamo," said attorney Ramzi Kassem, who visits the base frequently to visit with clients.regularly to meet detainees.

"Having no other options doesn't just harm the prisoners and their lawyers. It also hurts workers, service members and their loved ones," Kassem said.

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