Terrorism Trials: Military Commissions

9/11 Defense Counsel on Today's Al-Bahlul Decision from DCCA

By Wells Bennett
Friday, January 25, 2013, 3:57 PM

Here's the word from James Connell III, lawyer for 9/11 accused Ammar al-Baluchi.  Note his surmise that the "conspiracy charges issue" may not be up for argument before the military commission until later this spring:

Today, the D.C. Circuit court vacated the military commissions convictions of Ali Hamza Ahmad Suliman al Bahlul, including a conviction for conpiracy. The reversal of al Bahlul’s conviction for conspiracy highlights the dispute between the Convening Authority and Chief Prosecutor over whether the conspiracy charge against the 9/11 defendants should go forward.

Although the Chief Prosecutor has sought the dismissal of the conspiracy charge, the Convening Authority has refused to dismiss it. “In the military commissions system, the Convening Authority has both prosecutorial and judicial duties,” said James Connell, counsel for accused co-conspirator Ammar al Baluchi. “The same person who decides the charges and the maximum penalty also hand-picks the panel of military officers to decide whether to convict the defendants and sentence them to death.” The defense has filed a motion challenging the neutrality of the Convening Authority (AE091), which is scheduled for hearing in February.

The prosecution (AE120) and the defense (AE107) have both filed motions regarding the viability of the conspiracy charge. The military judge had scheduled the defense motion (AE107) for hearing in February, but today extended the time for the defense response until February 28 (AE107-4; AE120-2). This extension of time suggests that the issue will not be addressed until the hearing scheduled for April.