Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Seeveral Gitmo "War Crimes" Trials Falling Apart

The U.S. military abruptly dropped charges against five Guantanamo Bay detainees, including one who allegedly plotted to detonate a "dirty bomb" in the U.S., after a prosecutor accused the military of suppressing evidence that could have helped clear them.

But despite the decision, announced Tuesday, there are no plans to free the men. New trial teams are taking another look at the evidence, the military said, and after consulting with intelligence agencies will recommend whether to reinstate charges.

That means the administration of the next U.S. president will probably get to decide what to do with the cases, including that of Binyam Mohamed, accused of plotting with U.S. citizen Jose Padilla to set off a radioactive bomb and fill apartments with natural gas to blow up buildings.

Padilla was sentenced in Miami to more than 17 years in prison on charges of supporting terrorism after the "dirty bomb" allegations were discarded.

Lawyer Clive Stafford Smith has gone to U.S. and British civilian courts to obtain evidence that Mohamed, an Ethiopian who moved to Britain as a teenager, was tortured and falsely admitted to crimes to halt his agony.

Last month, Army Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, the prosecutor in all five cases, said the military was withholding evidence that could have helped clear the defendants. He resigned in what he called a crisis of conscience.

Stafford Smith said Vandeveld's accusations led to the dropped charges, though he added that the military has already said it plans to file new charges against Mohamed within a month.

"Far from being a victory for Mr. Mohamed in his long-running struggle for justice, this is more of the same farce that is Guantanamo," Stafford Smith said.

But the Pentagon denied Vandeveld's testimony had anything to do with the charges being dropped. The Pentagon reports recommending dismissal said only that the new prosecution teams taking over the cases needed more time to evaluate them.

"I find the prosecution has been unable to complete its preparation for this case," Pentagon legal adviser Michael Chapman concluded in two of his reports, copies of which were obtained by The Associated Press.

He recommended that the Pentagon official who oversees the tribunal system, Susan Crawford, dismiss the charges without prejudice, meaning they can be refiled later. She accepted the recommendations Monday.

Sixteen of the 255 men at Guantanamo Bay, a U.S. military base in southeast Cuba, now face charges in the first American war-crimes trials since the end of World War II. The military had previously dropped charges against a Saudi who allegedly had hoped to become a Sept. 11 hijacker.


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