Military judge denies motion to allow television broadcast of Guantanamo trial

[JURIST] A military judge ruled [order, PDF] Monday that he lacks authority to allow media to broadcast the trial of accused USS Cole [Navy backgrounder] bomber Abd al-Rahim Nashiri [NYT profile; JURIST news archive]. Al-Nashiri's defense lawyers moved [JURIST report] in July for the trial to be televised because there is a public interest in viewing the trial and seeing potential issues with the judicial process. Military Judge James Pohl, however, said in his order dismissing the defense's motion that Rule of Military Commissions 806(c) [text] expressly forbids "video and audio recording and taking of photographs ... in the courtroom," unless it is "expressly authorized by the Secretary of Defense." He said the rule does not give him or any other judge discretion on the issue, so he does not have authority to allow the trial to be recorded and broadcast. He also said that this does not violate the defendant's Sixth Amendment [text] right to a public trial because reporters are not prohibited from traveling to Guantanamo to watch and report on the trial.

Conducting trials at Guantanamo Bay has stirred controversy recently, as alleged conspirators of both the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the USS Cole bombing are being tried. In February Pohl ruled [JURIST report] in al-Nashiri's case that attorney-client mail that was inspected at Guantanamo Bay can not be released by the Pentagon [official website]. Days before this ruling, defense lawyers in the case of another Guantanamo detainee filed a suit [JURIST report] challenging the order for officials to read all legal correspondence for suspected 9/11 conspirators. That same month, a Pentagon official denied a request [JURIST report] to extend the deadline for filing pre-trial motions for detainees accused of planning the 9/11 attacks. Defense attorneys said they needed more time because of trouble getting security clearance at Guantanamo.

 

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