Apr 10 2008

Guantanamo Detainee Lawyer Claims Prosecutions Are Politically Orchestrated

The lawyer for Guantanamo Bay detainee Salim Hamdan filed a motion on March 27, 2008 to dismiss the charges against Hamdan. The motion asserts that political influence over Hamdan’s prosecution deprives him of his right to a fair trial. The motion alleges that the Bush administration exercises “unlawful command influence” over the proceedings, and that White House officials are orchestrating Hamdan’s military commission trial for maximum political benefit. Republican candidates claiming to be tough on terrorism could be boosted by Hamdan’s conviction prior to the November 2008 elections.

In the motion Hamdan’s attorney, Navy Lt. Brian Mizer, quotes Bush appointee, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, telling the military prosecutors“We need to think about charging some of the high-value detainees because there could be strategic political value to charging some of these detainees before the election.”

Former chief Guantanamo prosecutor Air Force Col. Morris Davis resigned in October 2007 because of political interference in the conduct of the military commission trials. He also said he was pressured to pursue weak “sexy” high-profile cases over those that were more solid cases, and that since convictions were expected, “I felt I was being pressured to do something less than full, fair and open.”

Davis is scheduled to be a pretrial witness for Hamdan Davis says he welcomes the “opportunity to tell the truth” about how the prosecutions are being conducted.

Prior to Davis’ resignation, three Guantanamo prosecutors were transferred in 2004 after they protested the military tribunal procedures, including that they were rigged to ensure convictions. One of the reassigned prosecutors, Air Force Captain John Carr, wrote to his superior: “When I volunteered to assist with this process and was assigned to this office, I expected there would at least be a minimal effort to establish a fair process and diligently prepare cases against significant accused. Instead, I find a half-hearted and disorganized effort by a skeleton group of relatively inexperienced attorneys to prosecute fairly low-level accused in a process that appears to be rigged. You have repeatedly said to the office that the military panel will be handpicked and will not acquit these detainees and that we only needed to worry about building a record for the review panel.”

Another of the reassigned prosecutors, Air Force Major Robert Preston, wrote to his superior: “consider the insistence on pressing ahead with cases that would be marginal even if properly prepared to be a severe threat to the reputation of the military justice system and even a fraud on the American people.”

The almost four years between those reassignments and Davis’ resignation suggests that nothing has fundamentally changed in the way the Guantanamo prosecutions are being handled.

Hamdan is one of the “low-level accused” that Carr was referring to. He is charged with conspiracy and supporting terrorism because he worked at one time as a driver for Osama bin Laden. Hamdan’s alleged crimes are the result of his proximity to bin Laden, because the government does not allege that he had any active role in planning or carrying out any attacks against the United States. Hamdan faces up to life in prison if convicted by the tribunal.

By Hans Sherrer / Justice Denied

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