ALBUQUERQUE — Eighty New Mexico National Guard members, including an attorney who is Las Vegas native, are heading to a remote naval base in southeast Cuba for a yearlong deployment to join a joint task force that runs the island prison at Guantanamo Bay.
The U.S. is holding 275 men at Guantanamo on suspicion of links to terrorism, al-Qaida or the Taliban. Authorities have said they plan to prosecute about 80 of them before military tribunals.
“I think we get front-row seats to history,” Greg Zanetti, the New Mexico Army National Guard brigadier general who will be second-in-command at Guantanamo, said.
Two attorneys are among the group, but neither will be part of the prosecution or defense involving the detainees.
Joe Romero, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice in Albuquerque who comes from Las Vegas, will be responsible for background checks of visitors, who must fly in to the base’s sole air strip.
Alfred Perez, a lieutenant colonel who prosecutes immigration, drug and child pornography cases for the U.S. attorney’s office in Las Cruces, will be doing legal assistance and military justice.
Zanetti, who will report to a Navy admiral at Guantanamo, was referring to the legal proceedings involving the detainees. Most of the detainees have been held for years without formal charges.
“These are the Nuremberg trials,” Zanetti said, referring to the post World War II trials of Nazi leaders. “You can imagine all the human rights groups who are all going to be there.”