Gitmo War Court Orders US General Jailed For Supporting Detainee's Legal Rights
On Wednesday, a judge in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, sentenced a US Marine in charge of a military court's legal representation to three weeks of confinement and ordered him to pay $1,000 for failure to follow orders concerning a case that involved the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000.
Brig. Gen. John Baker, 50, chief defense counsel for military commissions, received the sentence from US Air Force Judge Col. Vance Spath.
Spath said Baker failed to follow orders when he excused three Defense Department-paid attorneys – Rosia Eliades, Mary Spears, and Rick Kammen – from a military court case involving the USS Cole, something he did not have the authority to do, the Miami Herald reported. Spath said the decision to excuse them had been declared "null and void."
The attorneys sought to leave the case on the basis that they should be able to represent and defend clients without government surveillance – the Daily Beast reports that the attorneys believed the government was listening in on what should be privileged communications. Baker, supported their exit, and in standing up for this principle, was found in contempt of the court – a court, he argued, that had no proper jurisdiction over his actions in the first place.
The ruling was the first time the military tribunal in Cuba issued a ruling since 2008.
Appearing in the war court Wednesday, Baker argued that the court was set up to prosecute foreign terrorists and lacked jurisdiction to punish him since he was a US citizen. Baker was apparently denied the ability to defend himself after he made this assertion and was ordered to sit down.
"There are things I want to say, and you are not allowing me to say them," Baker told the judge, according to the Herald. "This is not a pleasant decision," the judge replied, adding that the legal proceedings were neither "fun" nor "lighthearted." Without the judge's ruling, though, he said there would be "havoc" in the justice system.
The particular case concerns Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a 52-year-old Saudi Arabian national who has been detained at Guantanamo for the past 11 years, two months. In 2008, CIA Dir. Michael Hayden confirmed al-Nashiri was among the al-Qaeda operatives the agency tortured.
Speaking at Georgetown University's 2016 NATSECDEF conference, Baker said that "put simply, the military commissions in their current state are a farce or as Rick Kammen – lead counsel for Mr. al-Nashiri – stated on the record last week, these commissions are 'hopelessly flawed.'"
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