War on Terrorism

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Chief Prosecutor: Commissions Incapacitate, Punish Terrorists

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 17, 2014 – Military commission proceedings for five suspects charged with the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States are progressing despite what the chief prosecutor called a “shortened week of pretrial sessions.”

Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins made his remarks in a written statement issued June 15 before this week’s two-day session in the ongoing war crimes case at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The hearing’s arguments centered this week on whether FBI investigations of some defense team members pose a conflict of interest in the case.

In what he described as a departure from recent sessions, the chief prosecutor said his appointment of a special review team for this week’s conflict-of-interest hearing was meant to “ensure that the prosecution team … remains walled off from learning about any privileged communications between defense counsel and the accused that might arise.”

“Such an approach of detailing separate counsel is common in situations such as this,” he said.

A sixth suspect, Abd al Hadi al-Iraqi, is expected to be arraigned tomorrow before the commission on noncapital charges, the chief prosecutor said. Charges state that as a senior member of al-Qaida, al-Iraqi conspired with and led others in a series of deadly attacks and related offenses in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere from 2001 to 2006. “While facing trial he, like the others, will remain in lawful, humane and secure detention at Guantanamo Bay,” Martins said.

The general emphasized that Congress established the Office of Military Commissions as a U.S. justice and counterterror institution. “They have been and will continue to be successful in incapacitating and punishing terrorists who employ the means and methods of armed hostilities,” he said.

On a broader note, Martins said that while it is natural to focus on in-court proceedings, “it is also worth remembering the significant work the defense and prosecution teams continue to accomplish” between sessions.

The government has provided more than 293,000 pages of unclassified discovery to the defense for each of the five suspects “so the accused may meaningfully confront the charges against them,” he said. The defense and prosecution teams have briefed in writing 154 “substantive” motions and have orally argued about 36 substantive motions in previous pretrial sessions, he added.

Of those motions briefed, he said, eight have been mooted, dismissed or withdrawn; 77 have been ruled on by the judge; and another 30 have been submitted and are pending decision.

The military commission has received testimony from 22 witnesses in more than 65 hours of testimony in the case, Martins said, with “all witnesses subject to cross-examination, to assist it in deciding pretrial motions.” The defense and prosecution teams have filed 190 exhibits and 76 declarations alleging facts and have provided references for the commission’s consideration of the issues, he said.

“These data reflect methodical and deliberate movement toward trial, however unsatisfying the pace may be to a range of observers,” Martins said.

“Much remains to be done,” Martins noted. “As we continue to move toward trial, the passage of time will not diminish our resolve. And these trials, equipped with strong procedural safeguards and court sessions that are as public and open as possible, will ensure that justice is done consistent with our values and in accordance with the rule of law.”

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