Military judge orders stop to 9/11 hearing censoring

[JURIST] A military judge on Thursday ordered the removal of any monitoring system that censors the public broadcast of the 9/11 [JURIST backgrounder] military commission hearings. The chief US military judge at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST backgrounder] Colonel James Pohl noted that only he and the court security officer have the authority [Reuters report] to turn on or off the light that would make the courtroom closed to public. A few minutes of Monday's pretrial hearing in the case against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed [JURIST news archive] and four other co-defendants were cut from the closed-circuit broadcast. Pohl held that the censoring was not based on any legitimate reasons because the information withheld was not secret in nature. The order came a day after the US Department of Defense [official website] released an excerpt of the transcript [text, PDF] from the missing few minutes based on another order issued on Tuesday. The transcript included an objection by the defense lawyer for the proceedings to be closed "because they deal with preservation of evidence of a detention facility." He argued that this was crucial for his client. During the discussions, the red light went on indicating that the courtroom was closed. However, it appeared that neither Pohl nor the security officer were responsible for it. Pohl said that there would be a meeting about who has the authority to turn on or off the light if "some external body is turning the commission off under their own view of what things ought to be, with no reasonable explanation." It was stipulated [NYT report] that the detention facility was referring to secret prisons in Romania and Thailand where the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] held 9/11 defendants. The hearings adjourned on Thursday and will resume on February 11 in which it will be decided whether to halt further hearings until an alleged eavesdropping on defense attorneys' conversations is investigated.

Controversy continues to surround Guantanamo military trials. Earlier this month Pohl denied [JURIST report] a defense motion requesting a finding that the US constitution was "presumed to apply" in the proceedings and that the prosecution must bear the burden of proving that any particular provision did not apply. Last month a US military judge upheld [JURIST report] a request to censor 9/11 conspirators' testimony. In September a judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia rejected [JURIST report] new restrictions on lawyers representing Guantanamo Bay detainees who have had their habeas corpus challenges denied or dismissed. The Department of Defense announced in 2011 that it had sworn charges against the five men [JURIST report] accused in the 9/11 attacks. In April 2011 US Attorney General Eric Holder announced that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the four others would be tried by a military commission [JURIST report] after the Obama administration abandoned attempts to have the 9/11 suspects tried in civilian courts.

 

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