Today marked the beginning of a planned four-day set of pre-trial hearings for five alleged 9/11 conspirators being held at Guantánamo Bay. I viewed this morning’s court session remotely at Fort Meade, Maryland. Jeff Meding is on site in Cuba and has previously posted information about the motions scheduled to be argued. Among these is AE152J in which the government requests Judge Pohl to make a determination pursuant to Military Commission Rule 909 of Ramzi bin al Shibh’s competency.
Judge Pohl called the hearing to order at 09:15 EDT. He then advised each accused (all of whom were present in the courtroom) of his right to be present throughout the hearings, and through an interpreter, each accused responded that he understood.
Counsel for the government then addressed the judge, requesting the he grant an ex parte motion apparently filed by the government on Sunday. The only information available in open court was that the motion was numbered 152V and related to the RMC 909 competency issue. Judge Pohl refused the government’s request to grant the motion without a hearing and expressed concern about derailing the week’s schedule over the issue. The government then indicated it felt an ex parte hearing on the issue would take no longer than an hour.
When James Harrington, counsel for bin al Shibh, responded, he stated the defense objects to an ex parte order and would like to brief in opposition and could do so within the hour. However, Harrington objected to a continuance on the ex parte motion issue because of another pending motion, namely, a joint defense “emergency motion to abate” the proceedings which he and the other defense attorneys had filed around 10:00 p.m. Sunday. According to Harrington’s argument, a member of the bin al Shibh defense team was approached on Sunday, April 6 (last week) by two FBI agents and questioned regarding the defense teams in this case. Apparently the motion attaches what purports to be a non-disclosure agreement the FBI required this team member to sign. Harrington asked for abatement of the proceedings pending investigation into the incident and proper advisement of the five accused of any potential conflict of interest. bin Attash’s lawyer also addressed the judge and represented that the content of the FBI conversation is not yet known and without such knowledge her client will not be able to determine if he has conflict-free counsel. The attorneys for the other accused also addressed the court and described efforts to draft the motion.
The government then argued against abatement and also requested the judge proceed with the ex parte hearing on the RMC 909 issue.
The judge determined that he would go ahead with an ex parte hearing on the government’s motion at 1:00 p.m. Monday and would otherwise adjourn for the day, to reconvene Tuesday at 9:00 a.m.
I suspect that Jeff will hear more talk on the ground at GTMO and hopefully we will hear from him!
In the meantime, I spoke with an L.A. Times reporter at Fort Meade, and he indicated that Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald is a highly respected press reporter on these hearings. Carol has posted a story about today’s events from her perspective on the Miami Herald website.