Chaotic Court Proceedings at Guantanamo
Here is the New York Times account of today's proceedings at Guantanamo (mobile version with some more details here.) Carol Rosenberg via Twitter has the play by play and an article at the Miami Herald with a full recap.
The Judge did offer to let the defendants plead not guilty, but they deferred. Ramzi Binalshibh wanted to talk about the conditions of confinement at Gitmo, the judge said it wasn't the proper time. Binlashibh yelled out:
“Maybe you are not going to see me again. Maybe they are going to kill us and say that we have committed suicide...The right time is now, not tomorrow." [More...]
Nor would the judge address the restrictions on attorney-client communications and mail:
Throughout the hearing, for example, defense lawyers for the detainees repeatedly raised complaints about restrictions placed on their ability to communicate, including problems with translators and a prison policy of looking through mail about the case. Judge Pohl told them again and again not to raise an issue he had already said would be addressed later.
Khalid Shaikh Mohammad's lawyer complained the defendants were strip-searched before coming to court.
When the defendants took off their headphones needed to hear the translators, the judge ordered the translators to broadcast their translations over the courtroom loudspeaker. From the mobile version of the New York Times account:
[T]he judge ordered translators to repeat each phrase in Arabic over the courtroom loudspeaker, further disrupting the hearing because speakers had to pause after each phrase, breaking up their thoughts and interactions, and because translators sometimes spoke over others.
Mr. Nevin objected that he could not effectively represent his client if forced to talk "like a robot," and Cheryl Bormann, a lawyer for Mr. Bin Attash, remarked at one point that "the subsequent translation is making me crazy." But the judge said he saw no alternative.
One defendant, Walid bin Attash, was wheeled into court in a restraint chair because he had refused to come to court. Attash only has one leg, and his prosthetic leg was attached in court.
A guard put Mr. Attash’s glasses on his face and attached his prosthetic leg. Colonel Pohl said he would have the restraints taken off if Mr. Attash would pledge not to disrupt the court, but Mr. Attash refused to answer him. Eventually, the restraints were removed after the judge accepted a promise relayed through Mr. Attash’s lawyer.
Bin Attash's lawyer said he has scars on his arms from JTF Gitmo. Attash started taking off his shirt to show the scars, and the Judge shouted "No."
Today's hearing is not over. The judge asked if the defendants wanted the charges read to them. Bin Attash did, so the court will reconvene at 7:45 pm tonight ET to read the 123 page document. It includes the names of all 2,796 victims who died in the 9/11 attacks. You can read the charges here or at the Military Commission's website by clicking on the case KSM-2 Active and then docket.
It looks like the next hearing is June 12 and trial won't be until May, 2013, at the earliest.
I think the Obama Administration dragged its feet so long on deciding where these defendants should be tried that too many people are satisfied that any trial proceeding is finally moving forward. Few appear to be concerned about whether the trial process is a fair one.
Those of us who oppose these military commission trials and believe them to be a mere show trial, realize we have lost this battle. We've gone from hope that Obama would keep his promise to close Gitmo on his first day of office, to outrage he caved into Republicans after first doing the right thing and bringing charges in federal court. There's no point in threatening Obama with a pink slip when the alternative would be Mitt Romney.
The best we can do now is make sure the rest of the world stays informed of the unfair process and how it violates our own fundamental constitutional principles. Our government needs to know the whole world is watching and will hold it accountable. To do that, we need to read and write about the accounts of the dedicated mainstream media reporters who are covering the proceedings live, so it remains profitable for their news organizations to continue funding their travel to Gitmo. If that funding dries up, so does our ability to get any fair account of the trials. All we will have is the Government's self-serving version, and that of the victims' survivors in attendance whose views are apt to be similar to one today who told the New York Times, the defendants "are engaging in jihad in the courtroom."
Let the New York Times, McClatchy and other mainstream media organizations who have sent reporters to Gitmo know you appreciate the coverage. If you don't want to take the time to send them an e-mail, at least click on their articles so you send them traffic.
|< Saturday Open Thread | Sunday News and Open Thread >|