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Gitmo Watch

By Dan Froomkin
11:45 AM ET, 01/30/2009

Peter Finn writes in The Washington Post: "A military judge threw a wrench yesterday into the Obama administration's plan to suspend legal proceedings at Guantanamo Bay, denying the government's request to delay the case of a detainee accused of planning the 2000 attack on the USS Cole.

"To halt proceedings for 120 days -- as Obama wants in order to conduct a review -- the Pentagon may be forced to temporarily withdraw charges against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri and possibly 20 other detainees facing trial in military commissions, including Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks...

"The chief military judge at the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Army Col. James Pohl, said that he found the government's arguments 'unpersuasive' and that the case will go ahead because 'the public interest in a speedy trial will be harmed by the delay in the arraignment.'

"The administration had argued that the 'interests of justice' would be served by a delay that would allow the government to review the approximately 245 prisoners at Guantanamo to figure out who should be prosecuted and how, and who can be released."

William Glaberson writes in the New York Times: "At times, Colonel Pohl, the chief judge in Guantánamo, took a contentious tone that seemed to challenge the Obama administration....

"The effect of Colonel Pohl’s decision could be reversed by the chief Pentagon official for the military commission system, Susan J. Crawford. Lawyers said Thursday that she could dismiss the charges against Mr. Nashiri 'without prejudice,' which would effectively remove the case from the judge, while clearing the way for prosecutors to file new charges in the future.

"A military official said he expected such a decision from Ms. Crawford, who has broad powers over commission cases.... This month, she surprised Pentagon officials by telling
The Washington Post that she had decided that a detainee who had been charged as the would-be '20th hijacker' in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, could not be prosecuted because she concluded he had been tortured at Guantánamo."

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