9/11 suspect must file motion over his Guantanamo lawyers: judge

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 17, 2016 3:53 PM

By Lacey Johnson

FORT MEADE, Md. (Reuters) - A Yemeni Sept. 11 suspect must keep his court-appointed lawyers until a motion is filed to show why the attorneys should be replaced, a Guantanamo Bay military judge ruled on Wednesday.

Judge Army Colonel James Pohl issued the ruling after reading a letter from Walid bin Attash, one of five defendants charged with plotting the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

Bin Attash, a suspected al Qaeda training camp leader, had said on Tuesday during the pretrial hearing that two of his three lawyers had become “the enemy.”

Pohl said the letter failed to show good cause for removing the defense team. He told bin Attash he would reconsider the request if it were submitted as a motion drafted with the help of an independent attorney.

In October, Pohl denied a motion from bin Attash to fire his lead attorney, Cheryl Bormann.

After the ruling, bin Attash said he would cut communication with his defense team. "This problem could take forever,” he said.

He also said he would not attend court proceedings in his death penalty case.

Pohl denied an offer by Bormann, a Chicago lawyer, to remove herself from bin Attash's team.

Bormann told Pohl that years of isolated detention and torture had turned bin Attash into “a damaged human being” who no longer trusts her for reasons beyond her control.

She blamed the breakdown in attorney-client trust largely on the government, which she accused of secretly recording their meetings and seizing legal documents from bin Attash's cell. She also cited an 18-month delay caused by an FBI investigation of defense attorneys.

Almost 3,000 people were killed when hijackers slammed airliners into New York's World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field on Sept. 11, 2001.

The hearing at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was carried over closed-circuit television to a media center at Fort Meade, outside Washington, D.C.

(Editing by Ian Simpson and Alan Crosby)