Monday, May 12, 2008

Gitmo judge disqualifies convening authority's legal adviser

Navy Captain Keith Allred, the military judge presiding at the trial of former Osama bin Laden driver Salim Hamdan, has ruled that the legal adviser to the convening authority overstepped his bounds and may no longer play a part in Hamdan's case.

Judge Allred, apparently relying on testimony from Air Force Colonel Morris "Mo" Davis, the former Guantanamo chief prosecutor, concluded that the convening authority's adviser, Air Force Brigadier General Thomas Hartmann, improperly attempted to influence Hamdan's prosecution. Davis resigned in October 2007, citing what he called interference by Hartmann in the prosecution of Gitmo detainees. Judge Allred wrote that directing the use of "evidence that the chief prosecutor considered tainted and unreliable, or perhaps obtained as a result of torture or coercion, was clearly an effort to influence the professional judgment of the chief prosecutor."

The judge also indicated there was at least the appearance of political motivation in the decision to prosecute certain individuals: “Telling the chief prosecutor (and other prosecutors) that certain types of cases would be tried and that others would not be tried, because of political factors such as whether they would capture the imagination of the American people, be sexy, or involve blood on the hands of the accused, suggests that factors other than those pertaining to the merits of the case were at play.”

Colonel Davis has previously testified that senior Pentagon officials told him just before the 2006 U.S. Congressional elections that there would be "strategic political value" in bringing charges quickly, in light of the upcoming vote. Other sources have suggested that the plea bargain for Australian David Hicks, made without input from Davis or his prosecutors, was struck in an attempt to help the government of conservative then-Prime Minister John Howard, who was at the time facing a difficult and ultimately unsuccessful campaign to remain in office.

UPDATE: The text of Judge Allred's decision can be found here.

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