Defense Team Squall Interferes With 9/11 Trial

     GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, CUBA (CN) — The latest attempt to try five accused 9/11 plotters kicked off Monday with arguments to give one defense attorney the boot.
     In a case that has been dragging on for years, Walid bin Attash, whom the government says helped Khalid Shaikh Mohammad plan and test parts of the 9/11 hijacking operation, has spent the last seven months been fighting his own counsel.
     When Col. James Pohl rejected bin Attash’s first effort to eject attorney Cheryl Bormann, the military judge said bin Attash did not have a good enough reason to replace her.
     Bormann serves on bin Attash’s defense team as “learned counsel,” a civilian attorney who has experience trying capital cases.
     Records show that the detainee continued complaining about her during proceedings in December, and that bin Attash inquired this past February about also dumping his assistant defense counsel, former Maj. Michael Schwartz.
     Bormann later asked to withdraw from bin Attash’s case as well, citing “a number of events” and other problems that arose from the government’s alleged intrusion into attorney-client privilege.
     The military commission ordered her to stay put, however, and Pohl likewise refused to pause the proceedings pending a review by independent counsel whom the judge appointed to help resolve bin Attash’s issues with his attorneys.
     As pretrial hearings for the accused 9/11 plotters resumed Monday for the first time since February, Pohl looked more closely at whether different standards apply to Bormann, whose services are statutorily required, and Schwartz, whose are not.
     Bormann argued there is “no case law which distinguishes” between the statutorily required counsel and the others.
     Arguing for the prosecution, Ed Ryan told Pohl that bin Attash has a role in the decision but that he is not clear whether the non-statutorily required counsel can be dismissed at any time.
     “Our position is he serves at the pleasure of the accused,” Ryan said in court.
     Bin Attash spoke at the hearing as well, through an interpreter, saying he could not see a distinction between this situation and the one in which he found himself in 2013 when he wanted to release a judge advocate general, a military attorney commonly known as a JAG, from his team.
     “No one objected, not the government and no one from my defense team,” said bin Attash, wearing a white head covering, of the 2013 incident.
     Pohl gaveled in and at various times during the proceedings as bin Attash spoke with his co-defendants and with an attorney for Mohammad.
     Bormann has until June 17 to brief the commission on whether bin Attash can get rid of Schwartz “at any time.”
     These proceedings, which are scheduled to run all week, represent the government’s third attempt at trying the five men.
     In its previous effort, back in 2010, the government tried to have the case heard by a federal court in New York. Protests ensued, however, and Congress blocked the use of government funds for such a purpose.
     Mired in allegations and evidence of torture used on the accused at CIA black sites around the world, the case has since proceeded before a military commission held in a specially built facility at the military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
     Along with Mohammad, the accused 9/11 mastermind, each of the five defendants are accused of conspiracy, attacking civilians, murder in violation of the law of war, hijacking an aircraft and terrorism. They face the death penalty if convicted.

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