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Chief judge of US military commissions retiring in April

[JURIST] US Marine Col. Ralph Kohlmann [JURIST news archive], chief judge of US military commissions [DOD materials; JURIST news archive], said Tuesday at a pretrial hearing for five suspects in the September 11 attacks [JURIST news archive] that he is scheduled to retire next April. During voir dire, in which defense attorneys questioned Kohlmann about potential bias, the judge said he had submitted retirement paperwork this past February. Kohlmann refused to speculate about whether the trials would conclude before his retirement, telling the attorneys he would reassign the cases if necessary. Among the suspects who appeared before Kohlmann on Tuesday was Khalid Sheik Mohammed [JURIST news archive], suspected of coordinating the 9/11 attacks, who asked Kohlmann [AP report] about his religious affiliation and his ability to preside impartially as a military officer. The Miami Herald has more.

Kohlmann has served as chief judge of the military commissions since last year. After his appointment, the New York Times noted [report] that Kohlmann had criticized the concept of military commissions in a paper [text] he had written in 2002 as a master's student at the US Naval War College [official website]. Kohlmann wrote that US district courts would be a better venue for terrorism suspects' trials because of a perception that military commissions lack independence and credibility. In another recent personnel change at the military commissions, US Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann [official profile; JURIST news archive] was reassigned [JURIST report] to the newly-created position of director of operations of the Office of Military Commissions. In his former position as legal advisor to the military commissions, Hartmann had been barred from taking part in certain detainees' trials on grounds that he was biased toward the prosecution [JURIST report].

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