Appeals court: military judge biased in 9-11 case

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled (PDF) Aug. 16 that Judge Scott Silliman should have recused himself in a case concerning multiple defendants who were charged with aiding in the 9-11 attacks. The petitioner, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, argued that Silliman was biased in the matter and cited a 2010 comment in which Silliman called Mohammad and his co-defendants the major conspirators in th attacks. The court found that because Silliman "expressed an opinion that Petitioner is guilty of the very crimes of which he is accused," he manifested an "apparent bias" and thus should have recused himself. The court granted the petition seeking recusal of Silliman and vacated a decision (PDF) by the US Court of Military Commission to reinstate charges for "attacking civilians and destroying property in violation of the law of war" against Mohammad and his co-defendants.

Mohammed allegedly met Osama bin Laden sometime in 1996. Following the 9-11 attacks, he was placed on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists list  in October of 2001. One year later, Mohammed was linked to the 2002 Bali nightclub bombing. He was captured in Pakistan along with other al-Qaeda operatives in 2003. In 2006, the United States acknowledged that Mohammad was being held in Guantánamo Bay with other 9-11 suspects. In February 2008 the US announced it will be seeking the death penalty against Mohammed and his co-defendants. In January 2009 then-president Barack Obama ordered a halt to the Guantánamo tribunals, delaying Mohammed's trail by 120 days. In April 2011, following more delays, the Department of Justice referred the case against Mohammed back to a military tribunal. The matter of Mohammed and his co-defendants is still pending today.

From Jurist, Aug. 11. Used with permission.

Note: In addition to the 2002 Bali nightclub bombing, Mohammed has also been linked to an attack on a Tunisian synagogue that same year. See our last post on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the 9-11 case.

  1. Man accused in 9-11 plot deemed unfit to stand trial

    A military medical board has concluded that Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who is accused of conspiring in the Sept. 11 attacks, has a mental illness that makes him incompetent to either face trial or plead guilty in the death penalty case, according to a report filed with his trial judge Aug. 25. The question of bin al-Shibh’s sanity, and capacity to help his lawyers defend him, has shadowed the Sept. 11 conspiracy case since his first court appearance in 2008. Then, a military lawyer disclosed that her client was restrained with ankle shackles and that the prison had him medicated with psychotropic drugs. (NYT)

  2. Military judge finds 9-11 defendant unfit to stand trial

    A US military judge ruled on Sept. 21 that Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a 9-11 defendant detained in US custody at Guantanamo Bay, is unfit to stand trial. Military Judge Colonel Matthew N. McCall’s ruling comes after a medical panel found that al-Shibh has PTSD with “Secondary Psychotic Features” resulting from his abuse in CIA custody. (Jurist)