Colonel James Pohl recessed the first military commission session of the year on Monday because Saudi prisoner Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri [JURIST news archive] may want to fire his lawyer. Nashiri faces terror charges in connection with the al Qaeda attack on the USS Cole [JURIST news archive] in 2000, which killed 17 American service members. The prisoner was scheduled for an eight-day hearing to address representation issues in an attempt to narrow the scope of the death-penalty case. Right before the hearing was set to begin, Nashiri's defense attorney, Rick Kammen, told the judge that his client was considering firing him. Kammen requested a short recess to allow him the chance to preserve the attorney-client relationship. While some have seen this recess as a stalling tactic, the prisoner's defense argues that the prolonged proceedings stem from complicated matters of secrecy and the death penalty. Additionally, the defense states that Guantanamo Bay [JURIST backgrounder] tactics have caused Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the client, creating further difficulty in the case.
This is the latest development in Nashiri's case. In December, Nashiri's counsel argued before the European Court of Human Rights [official website], accusing [JURIST report] Poland of serving as a secret torture site for the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) [official website] extraordinary rendition program [JURIST news archive]. Last February, Colonel Pohl ordered a mental health examination [JURIST report] for Nashiri to determine whether he was competent to stand trial. This came after Pohl refused to halt [JURIST report] further hearings in response to unsubstantiated allegations by defense counsel that the government was eavesdropping on private conversations with their client. The month before, Pohl denied a motion [JURIST report] by Nashiri's lawyers to to dismiss the alleged violations of the Military Commissions Act (MCA) [text, PDF] on the grounds that the bombing occurred "prior to the commencement of hostilities" between the US and al Queda. Pohl, who is also presiding over the trial of alleged 9/11 conspirators, approved a request [JURIST report] by the government to censor testimony by the defendants with respect to alleged use of enhanced interrogation techniques.