[JURIST] For the first time since the Guantanamo Bay war crimes tribunals convened in August 2004, a presiding military judge has said that he will examine potential evidence to determine if it was obtained through torture before ruling on admissibility. Presiding judge Col. Peter Brownback discussed the issue at a pre-trial hearing [JURIST report] for detainee Ali Hamza al Bahlul [charge sheet, PDF; DOD materials], who has admitted to being a member of the terrorist organization al Qaeda. Bahlul is charged with making recruiting videos and serving as a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden [JURIST news archive]. Brownback addressed questions raised by Bahlul's military lawyer, Army Maj. Tom Fleener, and asserted that although he personally does not believe evidence obtained from torture should be acceptable, he will still exercise careful consideration of the evidence.
The military commissions [JURIST news archive; DOD materials] have many critics [Reuters report], including Fleener, who has described the trials as "shams." Preliminary hearings in Bahlul's case continue despite a pending ruling [JURIST report] from a US Supreme Court [judicial website] case examining whether President George W. Bush [official profile] possessed the authority to create military tribunals to try terrorist detainees. Bahlul refused to participate [AP report] in Wednesday's hearing, saying that he would not receive a fair trial. At a hearing [JURIST report] in January, Bahlul held up a sign reading "boycott" in Arabic, and though he attended part of proceedings Wednesday, he told Brownback that his presence did mean that he had abandoned his intention to boycott the trial. Reuters has more.