Through The Static

July 21, 2008

Military Trial Begins for Guantánamo Detainee

Filed under: Eeeeep!,Government,Rights,War — disciplepete @ 10:38 pm


GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba — In a hushed courtroom here on Monday, a military judge opened the first American war crimes trial since World War II, culminating a nearly seven-year effort by the Bush administration to try some of the hundreds of terrorism suspects held in the detention camp…

…Even as Mr. Hamdan, Osama bin Laden’s former driver, faced trial, Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, in Washington, called for legislation the administration says it needs to control the scores of legal cases from terrorism suspects challenging their detention at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base in federal courts. Among his requests is a law barring the suspects from ever setting foot in the United States because of the “extraordinary risk” they pose.

Mr. Mukasey’s speech reflected the administration’s difficulty in dealing with Guantánamo, which has become a magnet for international criticism, partly because no detainee had been tried for any offense.

As Mr. Hamdan’s trial began, the military judge, Capt. Keith J. Allred of the Navy, quickly seated a panel of six senior military officers to act as a jury. The military panel was one of a number of stark differences between the proceedings here and those in American courts, where, critics have argued, civilian jurors would not be members of the same armed forces that are running the accused man’s trial…

…Critics have long asserted that the military commission system was designed partly to permit prosecutors to use confessions obtained through coercion and without giving detainees any opportunity to assert a right against self-incrimination, as they might if they were prosecuted by civilian authorities.

So even if Hamdan, Bin Laden’s former driver, is acquitted of charges, he can still be held indefinitely:

If convicted, he could face a possible life term. But because of the administration’s claim that it can hold unlawful enemy combatants indefinitely, even an acquittal would not mean release. It would simply mean he would return to his status as a detainee being held indefinitely — until, according the administration, the end of the war of terrorism…

Half of the potential jurors said they had personal connections to the events of Sept. 11, 2001, which prosecutors described as a product of the sweeping Qaeda conspiracy in which they say Mr. Hamdan was an enthusiastic participant…

…Aaron Zisser, an observer at Guantánamo for Human Rights First, said he had found the selection of the panel members troubling. American federal courts, he said, “are equipped to address both national security concerns and the fundamental rights of the accused.”


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