Guantanamo Trial Delayed Amid Prisoner's Protests




 
--
Boots
 
March 13th, 2008  
Team Infidel
 
 

Topic: Guantanamo Trial Delayed Amid Prisoner's Protests


Los Angeles Times
March 13, 2008 An Afghan accused in attack on U.S. soldiers refuses to cooperate in what he calls an 'illegal' tribunal.
By Carol J. Williams, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA The Bush administration's pursuit of a quick conviction of an alleged terrorist unraveled Wednesday when the young Afghan, accused of lobbing a grenade at two U.S. soldiers, refused to cooperate with what he called an "illegal" tribunal.
Mohammed Jawad, 23, now faces a months-long postponement in his trial because the Army colonel assigned to defend him will be leaving military service in five days.
Jawad had to be dragged from his cell for his initial appearance before the military commission and was wearing the orange prison garb that denotes an unruly detainee when he arrived in court.
He refused to accept any military lawyer to defend him and told the judge, Marine Col. Ralph Kohlmann, he couldn't explore his right to a civilian attorney unless he was freed and accorded "justice and fairness." He also said he had been tortured while in U.S. custody and listed as 21 years old even though he says he was 16 when he was arrested after the Dec. 17, 2002, attack in Afghanistan.
Jawad's case had been placed ahead of 13 others who have been charged, including six facing the death penalty if convicted of aiding the Sept. 11 hijackers. There are 275 men imprisoned here.
The charges of murder and terrorism against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and five other Sept. 11 suspects have not yet left the desk of the military commissions' convening authority, Susan J. Crawford. A 30-day deadline for arraignment starts ticking as soon as the charges are delivered to the defendants, but the war-crimes tribunal remains mired in legal and procedural challenges.
With only one of the six Sept. 11 suspects assigned a military defense lawyer, the administration has turned to prosecuting what were considered easier cases, like Jawad's, in hopes of proving that the system for bringing terrorism suspects to justice is working.
Wednesday's erratic arraignment of Jawad exposed further flaws in the Pentagon's offshore court, said Col. J. Michael Sawyers.
Sawyers, an Army Reserve lawyer, was assigned to defend Jawad five months ago when Pentagon prosecutors first swore out the charges against him. The delivery of the charges to Jawad was inexplicably delayed nearly four months after their swearing, and Sawyers said his remaining time on active duty had run out, making him ineligible to represent Jawad under the commission's rules.
Army. Col. Steve David, the chief defense lawyer for the tribunal, has informed Kohlmann that he is unable to assign a new lawyer for Jawad in the near future because he has only nine on staff with 14 active cases. That includes the six Sept. 11 suspects, who by American Bar Assn. rules for capital cases should each have at least two military lawyers. The prosecution has more than 30 attorneys preparing the government's side.
While the judge and lawyers discussed the complications in the Jawad case behind closed doors, the Pentagon announced charges of supporting terrorism against another Afghan prisoner here, 30-year-old Mohammed Kamin.
Jawad was asked to enter a plea despite his rejection of legal representation but had slumped onto the defense table by then and refused to respond to Kohlmann's questions. Sawyers recommended that a plea be delayed until his successor as defense attorney was chosen and brought up to date.
Jawad told Kohlmann he understood his rights before the tribunal but didn't trust it. He said that he had been tortured while in U.S. custody at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan after his arrest, and that he had been mistreated in Guantanamo as well.
"The American government said the Taliban has been very cruel in Afghanistan, that they killed people without any trial and imprisoned people without trial," Jawad told the judge. "When I was in detention at Bagram, Americans killed three people. They beat people and arrested us without trial. We're not given any rights."
The Afghan was born in a Pakistani refugee camp, had only a seventh-grade education and "Western concepts of justice and court I think are just completely foreign to him," Sawyers said.
Jawad held his head in his hands through much of the two-hour proceeding and complained of a headache from round-the-clock bright lights in his cell. He repeatedly removed the headset carrying the translation in his native Pashtu and slumped onto the defense table, moaning.
"What we had very clearly today I believe is a direct result of taking a 16- or 17-year-old boy and putting him in confinement for five years without contact with the outside world," Sawyers said.
Jawad has been charged with attempted murder and intent to inflict bodily harm for allegedly throwing a homemade grenade into a jeep carrying a National Guardsman from Long Beach, Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Martin; his colleague in a Special Forces unit, Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael Lyons; and an Afghan interpreter.
Jawad told officers during his Combatant Status Review Tribunal three years ago that he was in the vicinity of the attack in a Kabul bazaar but denied having thrown the grenade. Martin and Lyons were both wounded, and the interpreter suffered minor injuries.
Martin, back in civilian life with the Long Beach police, was not expected to be called to testify. Prosecutors have his account in an affidavit.
Kohlmann acknowledged that the change in defense attorneys -- if Jawad changes his mind and accepts one -- was likely to cause a considerable delay before the next proceeding, which according to commission rules should come within 120 days of the defendant being served with charges. David said that nine attorneys joined his staff in recent days but that they couldn't start work until at least May.
With weeks or months needed for the new lawyers to get familiar with the cases, neither Jawad's trial nor those of the Sept. 11 defendants are expected to get underway until late this year.
 


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