[JURIST] The US Department of Defense (DOD) [official website] on Friday rescinded a new rule that required military judges presiding over war crimes tribunals at the US Navy base in Guantanamo Bay to relocate to Cuba. The DOD claimed that the rule was enacted, in part, to help speed up the litigation process in military commission prosecutions, but overturned the rule [press release] in response to a judge’s suspension of a 9/11 terrorism case. Army Colonel James Pohl, said in his 10-page ruling [JURIST report] on Wednesday that the relocation order created “at least the appearance of an unlawful attempt to press the military judge to accelerate the pace of litigation and an improper attempt to usurp judicial discretion.” The DOD’s spokesperson for Military Commissions, Lieutenant Colonel Myles B Caggins III, stated [remarks] that retraction of this rule was “consistent with the interests of justice.” The lawyers of the men charged for the 9/11 plot filed a motion to have the case dismissed because of the relocation order, arguing that it was unlawful influence.
The trial of the 9/11 terrorist [JURIST backgrounder] suspects has faced numerous delays. Last April Pohl suspended proceedings [JURIST report] following accusations that the FBI [official website] was spying on attorneys for one of the accused. Defense attorneys for admitted 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin al-Shibh [JURIST news archives] filed an emergency motion with the court alleging that two members of the FBI tried to turn one of the defense team security officers into a secret informant. James Harrington [official profile], the attorney for al-Shibh, would not name the security officer in question but stated that he would have had “unlimited access” [Guardian report] to his clients’ files. Harrington argued that the FBI has created a potential conflict of interest and requested that the court conduct an independent investigation into the matter.