Obama calls for halt to Gitmo tribunals

Hours after taking the oath of office, President Barack Obama called for a halt to the Guantánamo tribunals, directing military prosecutors to seek a 120-day “continuance” (legalese for postponement) in proceedings underway at the prison camp against five accused 9-11 co-conspirators, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

“In order to permit the newly inaugurated president and his administration time to review the military commission process, generally, and the cases currently pending before the military commissions, specifically, the secretary of defense has, by order of the president directed the chief prosecutor to seek continuances of 120 days in all pending case,” prosecutor Clay Trivett said, in the written request to the judges.

Similar motions are expected to be filed in all pending military commission cases, presumably including proceedings set to begin against Omar Khadr, a Canadian who allegedly killed a US soldier in Afghanistan. It was unclear how Obama’s order would affect a sanity hearing that was scheduled forthis week in the trial of Ramzi bin al-Shibh, one of the accused 9-11 conspirators.

About 245 foreign captives are still held at the detention center that opened in January 2002. The Bush administration had said it planned to try 80 prisoners on war crimes charges, but only three cases have been completed. Defense attorneys have complained that the tribunals allow hearsay evidence and coerced testimony, and are the subject of so much political interference that fairness is impossible. (London Times, Jurist, Jan. 21)

See our last post on Gitmo.