Pentagon nixes 9-11 defendant’s bid to fire lawyer

The US government's case against five Guantánamo Bay detainees will continue to move forward after a US military judge on Oct. 29 determined that one of the defendants may not fire his defense lawyer. US military judge James Pohl ruled that Walid bin Atash did not show good cause to fire his lawyer. Judge Pohl stated to Atash, "[u]nder the law, before you may terminate the relationship with a counsel who's got an ongoing relationship with you, you must show good cause." Atash is one of the five detainees charged for planning and aiding of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2011. The presiding judge found that allowing Atash to retain new counsel would further delay trial proceedings, which yet to be assigned a trial date.

This is the latest development in the efforts to try those accused in the 9-11 attacks, following numerous delays. In February the US Department of Defense (DoD) rescinded a rule that required military judges presiding over war crimes tribunals at Guantánamo Bay to relocate to the base. The DoD claimed that the rule was enacted, in part, to help speed up the litigation process in military commission prosecutions, but overturned the rule in response to Pohl's suspension of the 9-11 terrorism case. Pohl had said in his 10-page ruling that the relocation order created "at least the appearance of an unlawful attempt to press the military judge to accelerate the pace of litigation and an improper attempt to usurp judicial discretion." Last year Pohl suspended proceedings following accusations that the FBI was spying on lawyers for one of the accused. Defense lawyers for admitted 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin al-Shibh filed an emergency motion with the court alleging that two members of the FBI tried to turn one of the defense team security officers into a secret informant.

From Jurist, Oct. 30. Used with permission.