Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian
October 2, 2008
The system of US military courts is so politically biased that Binyam Mohamed, a British resident held at GuantÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¡namo Bay, has no prospect of a fair trial, his lawyers said yesterday.
A number of prosecutors appointed by the US defence department have resigned in protest at the procedures’ perceived prejudice. Judges presiding over the military commissions, as they are called, have also attacked the way trials have been conducted at the detention centre in Cuba.
Individuals singled out for attack include Pentagon official Susan Crawford, who will play a crucial role in Mohamed’s trial, which is expected to start shortly, and her legal adviser, Brigadier General Thomas Hartmann.
Mohamed, 30, an Ethiopian national and British resident, was held in Pakistan in 2002, when he was questioned by an MI5 officer. He was later secretly rendered to Morocco, where he says he was tortured by having his penis cut with a razor blade. The US subsequently flew him to Afghanistan and he was transferred to GuantÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¡namo Bay in September 2004.
He denies any connection with terrorism, including claims he was involved in a “dirty bomb” plot, and says any confessions he may have made were extracted during torture.
Colonel Morris Davis, chief prosecutor of the military commissions, resigned from his post a year ago, saying fair trials were impossible and that the system had become “deeply politicised”. He said Crawford, the “convening authority” in the Mohamed case, overstepped her role by directing the prosecution in a way that “perpetuates the perception of a rigged process stacked against the accused”.
Hartmann was responsible for submitting recommendations about Binyam’s case to Crawford, which defence lawyers have not been allowed to see. After US military commission judges ruled that Hartmann improperly influenced prosecutors and used evidence from interrogations that involved coercive techniques, the US defence department last month removed him from his post, where he was directly responsible for preparing individual military trials at GuantÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¡namo Bay. However, he will remain overall director of the commission’s operations.
Commenting on the move, Davis said: “Elevating his deputy and leaving him in the process, I’m afraid, will be like the Vladimir Putin-Dmitry Medvedev relationship where there’s some real doubt over who pulls the strings.”
Andy Worthington of Reprieve, the legal action charity whose lawyers represent Mohamed, said: “The military commission system is a mockery of justice. The case against Binyam Mohamed is irredeemably tainted by its association with Brigadier General Hartmann, and should immediately be dismissed.”
The British government is refusing to release information which, Mohamed’s lawyers say, would show he had been tortured and that both UK and US security and intelligence agencies knew about it.
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