Pleading Terror Trials

Will the GWOT go on trial today? Or will the Administration avoid having its policies on terror detainees go on trial, along with two accused terrorists?

In Gitmo, Omar Khadr’s military commission is due to start shortly, in spite of the fact that lawyers in the case only got the manual laying out rules for military commissions last night. Apparently, military prosecutors made a last ditch attempt to avoid trying a Canadian captured as a teenager using dubious evidence; they offered Khadr a plea deal of five more years in prison in exchange for pleading guilty to war crime charges. Khadr refused that deal, though negotiations appear to be ongoing.

Military prosecutors offered a sentence of five years in a U.S. prison if Canadian detainee Omar Khadr pleads guilty to war crime offences, the Toronto Star has learned.Sources close to the case who spoke to the Star on the condition of anonymity said the offer was turned down, clearing the way for pre-trial hearings Wednesday morning.

I’ll post updates as news breaks, but you can follow Spencer Ackerman and Carol Rosenberg via Twitter for up-to-the-minute updates.

Meanwhile, closer to home, Syed Hashmi accepted a last minute plea deal yesterday, pleading guilty to one charge of material support for terrorism in exchange for a 15 year sentence.

On the eve of his terrorism trial, an American student who studied in London admitted Tuesday that he helped a friend deliver some protective clothing to an al-Qaida military commander fighting Americans in Afghanistan.The plea by Syed Hashmi to a single count of conspiracy to provide material support to al-Qaida was entered in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, averting a trial that was supposed to begin Wednesday.

As part of a plea deal that will require prosecutors to drop three other terrorism charges at his June 7 sentencing, Hashmi agreed to serve 15 years in prison. He has already served four years, at least three of them in solitary confinement at a federal lockup in lower Manhattan.

Hashmi’s case had attracted a lot of support for two reasons: first, because Hashmi’s actions in support of al Qaeda consisted of allowing a friend to use his cell phone and store a bunch of rain gear at his apartment. And because Hashmi was subjected to Special Administrative Measures for almost three years leading up to this point. While the government claims the measures are necessary to prevent terrorists (usually convicted ones) of communicating with co-conspirators, they amount to long-term solitary confinement with little due process.

In any case, by arranging a plea deal with Hashmi, details of his confinement will remain largely unnoticed.

For all the stink about where the 9/11 Defendants will go on trial, it appears that the Obama Administration would rather plead away these more embarrassing cases rather than have his policies, as well as accused terrorists, go on trial.

25 replies
  1. Peterr says:

    Per Spencer via twitter, looks like a brief delay:

    Omar Khadr’s pre-trial suppression hearing delayed until 1 pm so everyone can read/digest the Manual. Surprise!

    Thank goodness this is a small, straightforward little manual that is easy to pick up, read, and completely understand in a single quick reading.

    I mean, it’s not as if anyone’s life or liberty is at stake if someone misreads something in their haste to move things along.

  2. harpie says:

    Thanks for this post, EW, and for helping me follow along with what’s going on with this today. I don’t know anything about Twitter, so thanks also to Peterr for bringing some of what’s being said there.

    PS: typo in first sentence. “Will with GWOT go on trial today”

  3. Leen says:

    “Hashmi’s case had attracted a lot of support for two reasons: first, because Hashmi’s actions in support of al Qaeda consisted of allowing a friend to use his cell phone and store a bunch of rain gear at his apartment”

    This guy is going to do 15 years for allowing a friend to use his cell phone and store a bunch of rain gear at his apartment” allegedly having to do with supporting Al Qaeda?

    Christ all mighty.

    And Cheney, Bush, Wolfowitz, Feith, etc will never see the inside of a cell for the invasion of the country of Iraq based on a “pack of lies” that they manufactured and as a direct result hundreds of thousands of people are dead, injured and millions displaced.

    What a twisted justice system we have in this country.

    “For all the stink about where the 9/11 Defendants will go on trial, it appears that the Obama Administration would rather plead away these more embarrassing cases rather than have his policies, as well as accused terrorists, go on trial.”

    More telling evidence that the Obama administration is willing to follow in the Bush administration’s bloody foot steps. Pathetic.

    Obama, Holder etc “no one is above the law” Hogwash.

    • Jeff Kaye says:

      Re Hashmi, well son of a bitch!!! They broke the guy down, so he’ll plead for… 15 years! What a pile of crap. I can’t blame Hashmi for wanting the ordeal to end. The state has you by the balls, and has broken you down, and shown they can do it and the country looks on passively. Why, maybe he’ll get out in ten or less years (I’ll bet he’s told), and he thinks, maybe my life isn’t completely over.

      Re Khadr, what another pile of stinking crap. Thanks to Box Turtle for getting the commissions manual (other story) and to EW for so quickly bringing us the relevant parts, and analyzing them so well. I’m glad to see Khadr wants to fight for his case, and it’s remarkable he too hasn’t been totally beaten down. Perhaps knowing you are in a prison with 100s of others like you give young men like him hope. For Hashmi, all alone and abandoned in Manhattan, it must have felt like he was dropped into hell. That’s not to downplay the torture endured by young Omar. Maybe he can bargain them down to something token, or maybe he’s hoping for full vindication.

      What a sad country we have.

  4. harpie says:

    Well, Hashmi’s plea deal [OY!] got Judge Loretta Preska out of having to decide if she would grant DoJ’s [fear mongering] request for voir dire:

    Last week, the Department of Justice lawyers asked the court to grant its motion for an anonymous jury, they say, to protect the jurors, the audience in the courtroom, the prosecutors and defense counsel, the judge, and the criminal justice process. […] If Judge Loretta Preska grants the motion, jury selection would proceed under a [“controversial”] process known as voir dire, referring to giving a true verdict. […] [US Attorney:] “It is likely that the jurors will see in the gallery of the courtroom a significant number of the defendant’s supporters, naturally leading to juror speculation that at least some of these spectators might share the defendants violent radical Islamic leanings.”

    Hashmi: Finally, a Trial!; William Fisher, 4/26/2010

    The government wants both its questioners and its deciders to be invisible to those they question and judge.

  5. BoxTurtle says:

    It makes sense that ObamaLLP would try to plea bargain some of these away. But I’m with Klynn: Why in the world would the defendents accept the offered deal? Especially Hashmi. If all the government had was a bunch of raincoats and a cellphone call, it seems a no-brainer to demand a trial.

    That case would be in a real court with real rules of evidence. Either his legal help is of questionable competence or the government had a lot more evidence.

    I’m betting on a delay of at least a week in the show trials, as even ObamaCo will conceed the need for it’s own tools to know the rules they’ll need to cheat.

    Question for lawyers: Can that manual be challenged in a real court prior to it’s use in a show trial?

    Boxturtle (No scary brown moslem is above the law!)

    • Leen says:

      ot hosting Secretary of State Brunner for U.S. Senate today in Athens. She knocked me out several weeks ago when I heard her speak in Columbus. Her in depth knowledge about both domestic and International issues is mind boggling. She sounded like Jimmy Carter on the I/P conflict. Pounding the phones etc hard for her. Fisher is a sure vote for more unnecessary aggression against Iran and a for sure vote for the right wing of the Israeli lobby.

      Hope you and your neighbors are going to vote for Brunner in the May 4th primary. She is brilliant.

    • BoxTurtle says:

      If you want to see just how long those rules would last in front of a REAL judge, just search that PDF for the word “hearsay”.

      I did. The sound you hear echoing across the land is my teeth grinding while I bang my head against the wall.

      Boxturtle (When I get done, I’m gonna look up cross exam and likely start over)

    • BoxTurtle says:

      In the game of politics, there are no rules. You cheat till you win.

      Boxturtle (There was actually a board game based on the premise)

  6. fatster says:

    Thanks so much for keeping this latest GITMO news under your microscope, EW. Excellent work, as always.

  7. BoxTurtle says:

    Scanning through that document, I notice a lot of rules are listed as RESERVED. Does that mean that they’re saving that rule number for later use or that we’re not allowed to see the rule?

    Boxturtle (Horrible combination of legalese, bureaucratese, and asscover)

  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Fifteen years (plus time already served, with a bonus torture round) seems a tad excessive for letting a friend use a cellphone and store “rain gear” at his place. If that’s material support for terrorism, the FBI will be busy doing plea agreements at half the pubs and money forwarders in South Boston.

    • emptywheel says:

      Not least since the guys the Attorney General helped get off did not time for knowingly paying money to terrorists.

      Oh wait. They were white Republicans.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        A fair reading of that material support law, until it’s declared unconstitutional for vagueness, would require taking a hard look at some of the organizations American money is flowing to both in and outside the West Bank. The Troubles in Ireland, on the other hand, are old hat. What about organizations in and supporting extremists rulers in those Central Asian states that spread so much money round K Street? I wonder how many FBI agents are investigating them.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Great minds think alike and all that. From Juan Cole:

          The Israeli law resembles the one recently enacted in Arizona in one respect. Recently-arrived European Jews are demanding that Palestinians, who have inhabited the West Bank for thousands of years, must be able to show their papers in order to stay. In the same way, some of the Latinos who will be hassled by police in Arizona with demands that they ‘show their papers’ will be Hispanics, i.e. the old pre-US elite from the days of the Spanish Empire and early Mexico. The Arizonan yahoos who made this racist law to harass Latinos are recent, uncultured immigrants from the point of view of proud old Hispanic families. Others so hassled will be of mixed Latino and Native American heritage, so that some of their ancestors were in Arizona perhaps 10,000 – 16,000 years ago, but ignorant Euro-Americans are now demanding proof that they belong there.

          Racism everywhere tells itself the same transparent lies about blood and soil, and makes the same sleight-of-hand exclusions on the basis of ‘purity’ of blood.

  9. BoxTurtle says:

    I have to admit this is the first manual I’ve ever read that has such a big loophole stashed in the FORWARD. The entire second paragraph is nothing more than a giant elastic clause saying “I don’t have to use these rules if I don’t want to”.

    Boxturtle (And since the reason is classified, you can’t even question me on it!)

  10. Jim White says:

    Interesting news flash: the Center for Constitutional Rights has filed to intervene in the Garzon US torture case:

    “For eight long years we have fought to redress the brutal, inhumane and illegal acts perpetrated against our clients but have been blocked at every turn by both the Bush and Obama administrations,” said CCR President Michael Ratner, who filed the first habeas corpus petition brought on behalf of a Guantanamo detainee in 2002. “We come to Spain in pursuit of nothing less than justice, which, sadly, is not available in the United States.”

    CCR staff attorney and lead counsel in the action, Katherine Gallagher, added: “The purpose of the intervention is multi-fold: to pursue justice and accountability for egregious international law violations in a forum that is willing to exercise jurisdiction over the case, and to press the message that no one is above the law and that impunity cannot stand, even if the U.S. is unwilling to prosecute the crimes.”

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