Khadr decision to fire lawyers throws hearings into doubt
The Globe and Mail reports that the fate of Omar Khadr’s military trial, and the evidence the prosecution can present, will be up to Omar Khadr and his judge.
Military Justice Colonel Patrick Parrish will call on the Canadian charged with terrorism to confirm a statement he submitted Wednesday firing the American lawyers who have been conducting his defence at the military tribunal here. Col. Parrish is also expected to ask Mr. Khadr whether he wants to proceed with his defence team’s attempt to suppress evidence they have spent months arguing was elicited through torture.
If that motion dies, it could mean attempts to hold back that testimony, formally argued in several days of hearings earlier this year and the subject of multiple assessments of Mr. Khadr’s psychological state, are over. Col. Parrish could decide to weigh what’s been presented to him so far, and disallow evidence he deems inadmissible.
Mr. Khadr “thinks it’s an unfair process and he doesn’t want to play any more,” says Nathan Whitling, one of Mr. Khadr’s Edmonton-based lawyers. Mr. Whitling and Dennis Edney continue to represent Mr. Khadr in Canada, and have argued numerous times for Ottawa to repatriate him.
Mr. Khadr’s written submission Wednesday firing his American legal team wasn’t the first time his defence lawyers have been dismissed: Barry Coburn and Kobie Flowers are among about a dozen people who have represented the Toronto-born Mr. Khadr since he was first charged.
Guantanamo detainee pleads guilty before military tribunal
[JURIST] A Sudanese terrorism suspect held at Guantanamo Bay pleaded guilty on Wednesday 7 July before a military judge to charges of conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism. Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi admitted that he supported al Qaeda since 1996 in their hostilities against the US, acting as the terrorist group’s cook and accountant in the 1990s and as a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden in later years. He was also accused of being Bin Laden’s driver and helping him escape to the mountains of Afghanistan after the US invasion in 2001. Al Qosi’s sentencing is scheduled to take place on August 9 before a panel of military officers, and he could face a sentence of up to life in prison or could be sentenced to time served.
Qosi was tried under revised rules introduced by the Obama administration to address criticisms of the commission system. But human rights groups said the case was an example of how the commission is fundamentally flawed and plagued by delays compared to federal criminal courts.
“This is not a victory for the military commission system,” Daphne Eviatar of Human Rights First said in a statement. “In fact Mr. al-Qosi’s case is a textbook example of the inability of the military commission system — now in its third incarnation — to achieve swift justice. The case has dragged on for more than six years without a trial,” she said.
Federal appeals court denies Guantanamo detainee habeas petition
[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit released a partially redacted opinion Wednesday 7 July denying habeas corpus relief to Guantanamo Bay detainee Fawzi Khalid Abdullah Fahad Al Odah. In its opinion, the court affirmed the district court’s ruling that there was sufficient evidence against al Odah for him to be considered “part of” al Qaeda and Taliban forces. Lawyers for al Odah attempted to argue that the individual pieces of evidence against him could be explained without reaching the conclusion that he was a member of al Qaeda. The appeals court disagreed, holding that when viewing the evidence in its entirety, there was “strong support” for the district court’s findings.
Al Odah’s case, pending since 2002, was a companion case to the 2008 Supreme Court ruling in Boumediene v. Bush, and to the 2004 Supreme Court decision of Rasul v. Bush.
Pentagon ends Guantanamo reporters’ ban
The New York Times reports that the Pentagon on Friday 9 July reversed itself and agreed to allow two reporters it had banned from Guantánamo Bay back onto the naval base after a coalition of news organizations complained that the ban was unconstitutional.
But the reinstatement of the reporters, Carol Rosenberg of The Miami Herald and Michelle Shephard of The Toronto Star, was conditional and left many of the issues that have strained relations between the news media and the Pentagon unresolved, likely prefacing a longer fight over the right of journalists to cover the secretive military proceedings at Guantánamo Bay. The fates of two other reporters who were also banned in May was unknown.
Ms. Rosenberg and Ms. Shephard had to acknowledge in writing to the Defense Department that they understood that they had violated military rules by disclosing the identity of an Army interrogator, even though his name was already publicly known. The reporters also had to reaffirm that they would abide by the rules the Pentagon sets for reporters covering the Guantánamo military commissions.
Read a comment of the decision on EMPTYWHEEL.
Federal judge orders Yemeni Guantanamo detainee freed
The Miami Herald reports that a federal judge has ordered the release of another Yemeni captive at Guantánamo, the 37th time a war on terror captive in southeast Cuba has won his unlawful detention suit against the U.S. government.
Judge Paul Friedman’s order in the case of Hussein Almerfedi at the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., instructs the Obama administration to “take all necessary and appropriate steps to facilitate the release of petitioner forthwith.”
His reasoning on why the U.S. had unlawfully detained Almerfedi, 33, held at Guantánamo since May 2003, was still under seal. But as far back as 2005, Almerfedi had argued before a military panel at the Navy base in southeast Cuba that he fled his native Aden, Yemen, with plans to settle in Europe, not to join a jihad. Instead, he said, his journey took him to Pakistan and then Tehran where Iranian forces turned him over to Afghan forces, who in turn handed over to the United States.
Justice Department attorneys argued that Almerfedi was a former Aden-based salesman of the narcotics plant called Qat who came to support al Qaeda “and is thus an enemy of the United States.” The U.S. also said that Almerfedi was subjected to a lie detector test and was found to be deceptive. Almerfedi told a military panel at Guantánamo in 2005 that he was polygraphed in Bagram, Afghanistan, on the eve of his transfer to Cuba.
Germany to take two Guantanamo detainees
After months of negotiations with the US Government, Germany has agreed to take in two inmates cleared for release from the U.S. prison camps at Guantánamo Bay. The United States government first asked Germany take in three inmates of Palestinian and Syrian origin in 2009, German officials said Wednesday 7 July. Germany has agreed to take in two of three men.
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the two prisoners have been in Guantánamo for nine years, but they do not face criminal charges. De Maiziere stressed that Germany will turn down any future requests to put up Guantánamo Bay detainees. De Maiziere came under fire in April when he announced that he would consider the U.S. request. Several conservative politicians insisted that the United States should take responsibility for the inmates, who could end up committing crimes in Germany.
Six Algerian detainees ask to stay in Guantanamo
On Thursday 8 July a federal appeals court overturned a lower court’s ruling that had barred the government from repatriating one of six Algerians detained at Guantanamo. The detainee had asserted that if he is returned, the Algerian government will torture him or he will be targeted by terrorist groups who will kill him if he refuses to join.
U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler had ruled that the claims of Farhi Saeed bin Mohammed, 49, who has been held at Guantanamo Bay for more than eight years, “are of great concern.” She said the court must ensure that there is “real substance” behind any diplomatic assurances obtained by the administration that detainees repatriated to Algeria will be treated humanely.
A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned Kessler late Thursday, granting the government’s emergency appeal. Much of the litigation remains under seal, but the government argues that legal precedent makes clear the executive branch’s prerogative to decide where to transfer a detainee.
Similarly, the administration has been preparing to repatriate one of the six Algerians. But lawyers for Aziz Abdul Naji, 35, who has been held at Guantanamo for more than eight years, said he is “adamantly opposed to going back.” If officials go ahead, it would be the first involuntary transfer out of Guantanamo Bay by the Obama administration.
Read “Why the Guantanamo Transfer Litigation Matters” by Steve Vladeck on BALKINIZATION.
Three ex-Guantanamo detainees in Slovakia embark on a hunger strike
Andy Worthington reports that on Thursday 24 June, Branislav Tichý, the director of Amnesty International Slovensko, told the press that three former Guantánamo prisoners, who had been released in Slovakia on January 25 this year, had embarked on a hunger strike. According to the Slovak Spectator, Tichý explained that they were “protesting bad conditions and the treatment they are receiving from Slovak authorities in a detention facility in Medved’ov in Trnava Region.”
On 2 July IPS Adil Al-Gazzar, one of three former Guantanamo Bay prisoners on hunger strike at a detention facility in Medvedov, western Slovakia, said to IPS: “I am feeling weak and sick and getting worse. But I am not going to stop until I get a resolution to my problems, and I will go on with my hunger strike until I die if I must.” The strike entered its tenth day Friday.
Egyptian Al-Gazzar, Azerbaizani Poolad Tsiradz and Tunisian Rafik Al-Hami arrived in Slovakia in January after Slovak authorities agreed to take the detainees under an EU-U.S. agreement. All three were held for years at the prison. They claim they had been wrongly interned, and deny being terrorists.
But Al-Gazzar, a former Egyptian soldier who lost a leg after an attack by U.S. forces in Afghanistan in November 2001 when he was a volunteer for the Red Crescent in the country, said that since arriving all three have been denied basic freedoms on a scale worse than anything they experienced at Guantanamo.
There have also been claims that the trio were misled by Slovak authorities about how long they would have to stay at a holding facility when they arrived in Slovakia. Al-Gazzar told a local journalist that the men were not told they would be held in detention but that they would be free with some restrictions. When they came to Slovakia, he said, they were told they had to stay six months in an asylum facility. Now they have been told they face another half a year in a different facility.