October 28, 2008

The Gitmo trails are beginning to assume the appearance of an Oscar Wilde farce.

Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, facing a possible life sentence, sat mutely at the defense table. His lawyer announced the prisoner was boycotting the trial because he did not want a military attorney and because the judge had denied his repeated requests to represent himself.

The appointed defense attorney, Air Force Maj. David Frakt, asked to be relieved in deference to his client's wishes, but the judge refused. Frakt then said he could not participate either.

"I will be joining Mr. Al-Bahlul's boycott, sitting silently at the table," said Frakt, who then refused to respond to several questions from the judge.

The judge, Air Force Col. Ronald Gregory, said Frakt was obligated to participate and that both the lawyer and defendant, despite their wishes, would be required to attend the hearings — even if they stay silent.

"The commission will not proceed with an empty defense table," Gregory said.

This is only the second tribunal to actually convene, out of around 80 trials of detainees expected (from 255 still held). What's it going to be like by the time the 20th, 40th rolls around? And what about the other 170+ detainees?

It's quite clear the process is deeply flawed - so flawed that in a real court some very bad people would walk free because their trials are contaminated by tortured evidence and official interference in due process that, in truth, are just as much war crimes as the offenses detainees are accused of. Despite the howlings of the rabid Right, though, that's the way the civilization cookie should crumble. If they wanted it otherwise, the Bush administration's actions were entirely the wrong way to go about it.

Amy Goodman talks to Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights about Gitmo

Crossposted from Newshoggers

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