U-turn leaves Guantanamo Bay 9/11 trials in disarray

 

The Guantanamo Bay trials are in such disarray that nobody may ever be convicted of the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington, it emerged today.

The US military base's chief prosecutor, Brigadier General Mark Martins, announced this week that he had asked the Pentagon to drop conspiracy charges against the five men awaiting trial for their part in the 2001 atrocity. The U-turn comes in the wake of an appeal court overturning one existing conviction and looking set to do so for another. Speaking to The Independent, defence lawyers insisted the prosecution was refusing to admit the severity of the move, which they say could fatally undermine the case against five men accused of orchestrating the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon – as well as weakening all previous convictions.

"It is a much bigger deal than they are making it out to be," said Cheryl Bormann, a lawyer for defendant Walid bin Attash. "It is going to make their case far more difficult to prove." She added that demonstrating intent to murder was far more challenging than proving conspiracy.

Along with lawyers for Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi and Ammar al-Baluchi, Ms Bormann insisted that it would make it harder to convict those accused of supporting roles.

Bin Attash is suspected of selecting and training several of the hijackers. Along with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, al-Hawsawi and al-Baluchi, he is accused of conspiring to carry out and of executing the 9/11 attacks. Al-Hawsawi's attorney, Commander Walter Ruiz, said: "The withdrawal of the conspiracy charge essentially removes the heart of the body of charges currently pending" against his client. Ms Bormann added: "The prosecutor has been forced to recognise the cases they are challenging are unravelling. I would urge General Martins not to wait until the cases go to the appellate court but actually do his job as prosecutor and dismiss these charges now, as well as recognise the Military Commissions system in its entirety is unfair." Of the 779 men originally incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay, just seven have been found guilty of crimes. Today 166 detainees are still being held at the military base on the island of Cuba, with many, such as the last British inmate, Shaker Aamer, cleared for release.

In October last year the US Court of Appeals threw out the conviction of Salim Hamdan, who was accused of being Osama bin Laden's driver, citing that providing material support was not a war crime under international rule of law. After submitting his recommendation to withdraw the conspiracy count, Brigadier General Martins said it would leave a "clear path forward", removing a potential legal challenge. He added: "The remaining charges are well-established violations of the law of war and among the gravest forms of crime recognised by all civilised peoples. This action helps ensure the prosecution proceeds undeterred by legal challenge." But defence lawyers said it would leave a hole in the prosecution's case and make it harder to try people who were not linked specifically to the attack.

The Military Commissions system – set up to try non-Americans suspected of involvement in 9/11 – has already been accused by human rights experts of being illegal and failing to provide basic legal rights to the defendants. Lawyers have complained about the lack of disclosure from the prosecution, say client confidentiality rights are being breached and that funding for investigators or expert witnesses is not forthcoming.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower