GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba — On hold again: The Pentagon’s latest attempt to move forward with a military commission for an Iraqi detainee was abruptly canceled when the judge found that the accused’s defense attorney, Marine Lt. Col. Sean Gleason, was also involved in another war crimes case.
The pre-trial proceedings for accused terrorist Abd al Hadi al-Iraqi are set to resume Sept. 14.
“I respectfully say some of the comparisons about costs and so forth can be a bit myopic,” Chief Prosecutor Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins said. “I mean these are really important cases, and it’s easy to do comparative cost figures and to fail to see how important it is to get national security right and fairness right.”
Gleason, Hadi’s former counsel, was not present at Wednesday’s hearing, where it became evident that the Defense Department never formally released him from Hadi’s defense team. Hadi, apparently nervous that Gleason could use information adverse to his interests in other proceedings, told the judge he has lost confidence in his entire defense team, at least temporarily.
“I need to talk to attorney Gleason,” Hadi said.
Marine Lt. Col. Thomas Jasper, Hadi’s lead defense counsel, told the judge, Navy Capt. J.K. Waits, that his team did not learn of the conflict until the government turned over new evidence less than 24 hours before the pre-trial hearings were scheduled to begin. Jasper told Waits that the government was privy to this information since 2007, the year in which Gleason was originally appointed to Hadi’s case.
“I will tell you we take our discovery obligation very seriously,” Martins said. “We are producing it as we find it and prepare it.”
The judge originally ordered the court in recess in hopes that Hadi could meet with Gleason on short notice before he halted the proceedings altogether on July 23. It could not be confirmed whether Hadi and Gleason were able to speak electronically or otherwise.
Air Force Maj. Ben Stirk, one of Hadi’s defense lawyers, declined to meet with reporters given his “current limbo status regarding our representation of Mr. Hadi and the way forward.”
Hadi, now in his fifties, is considered a high-value detainee who is accused of being a senior al-Qaida commander who conspired and ordered attacks that resulted in the death of at least eight U.S. service members in Afghanistan. He was captured in 2006 and held by the CIA for no less than 170 days before coming to the detention center at Guantanamo Bay.
Hadi previously objected to being dealt with by female guards, but calmly appeared in court and was dressed in traditional white garb.
The government hoped to move the case forward over the originally scheduled 10-days of hearings by establishing jurisdiction over the defendant and determining what evidence and out-of-court statements could be admitted at trial. No trial date is set.
The prosecution did introduce Felice Viti, the attorney from Utah who prosecuted the Elizabeth Smart kidnap and rape case, as its new deputy counsel. Smart’s case gripped the nation throughout the 2000s, culminating in Smart’s memoir, “My Story.”
The military brass from the Pentagon and witnesses were flown into Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, from Andrews Air Force Base at taxpayer expense and will return in September to resume proceedings, some of which were intended to be completed in this round.
This week’s scenario is not an anomaly. For example, the 9/11 trial was scheduled to last two weeks in February, but was derailed on the first day after one of the accused said he recognized his translator from a CIA black site.
The way forward, Martins said, is “following the law.”