Guantanamo defendant says he may want to be his own lawyer

AP News
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Posted: Oct 19, 2015 7:02 PM
Guantanamo defendant says he may want to be his own lawyer

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (AP) — A Guantanamo Bay prisoner who is facing trial by military commission in the Sept. 11 attack told a judge Monday he may want to represent himself, a declaration that prompted a quick end to the latest attempt to get the stalled proceedings moving again after 18 months of delay.

Yemeni prisoner Walid Bin Attash told the judge that he wanted to know more about the procedures involved in representing himself, indicating that he was frustrated that his court-appointed lawyers, a civilian and a member of the military, have not been able to resolve long-standing complaints about conditions in of in Camp 7, a maximum-security section at the U.S. base in Cuba.

"We have so many problems in the camp that take precedence over anything they are discussing here in court," Bin Attash said.

The judge, Army Col. James Pohl, cut off Bin Attash before he could go into detail about his complaints, turning the discussion in court instead to the practical issues involved with a defendant representing himself while held under such tight security. He adjourned the session until Tuesday after less than an hour on the record so that the prisoner's lawyers and prosecutors could further explore the legal issues before any decision is made.

Defendants are allowed to represent themselves in a military commission, with lawyers standing by to provide assistance, but they face difficulties that include having no access to the Internet to do legal research and not being able to view classified evidence that is expected to play a significant role in the case.

Bin Attash and his four co-defendants have been charged for their alleged roles planning and aiding the Sept. 11 attack but the proceedings were put on hold in April 2014 when a lawyer for defendant Ramzi Binalshibh revealed that members of his defense team were being investigated by the FBI for a possible security breach.

Pohl had been expected to decide as early as Monday whether the case would be able to proceed now that the Justice Department has concluded that no one will be charged for the alleged breach.

That decision has now been delayed until Tuesday at the earliest.

The five prisoners, including the self-proclaimed architect of the Sept. 11 attack, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, were arraigned in May 2012 before the military commission on charges that include terrorism and nearly 3,000 counts of murder in violation of the laws of war. They could get the death penalty if convicted. A trial date has not been scheduled.