Guantanamo (Cuba) – Office of Military Commissions Chief Prosecutor Brig. Gen. Mark Martins said that the trial for Qaeda members suspected of involvement in the September 11 terror attacks alongside other top Guantanamo Bay prisoners could start in 2018.
Martins said that laws and regulations on trying war criminals, which prohibit holding tribunals against adversaries before ending “conflict,” were part why the legal processing has taken so long.
Martins will oversee the capital trial of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and four co-defendants, Walid bin Attash, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Ammar al-Baluch and Mustafa al-Hawsawi.
The Brig. Gen. is also chief prosecutor in the case of Abdul Rahim al-Nashiri, accused of blowing up the USS Cole off the coast of Yemen in 2000, and killing 17 American sailors. Martins also plays the same role in the case of senior al-Qaeda leader Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi.
In his interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Martins clarified that Iraqi faces allegations, and those accused are innocent until proven guilty.
There are several reasons behind the long-taking preparations for holding trials, including the fact that the United States so far still is in conflict with al-Qaeda.
“Often, charges are only raised after conflict has ended– a lot of procedures need be done in terms of gathering evidence,” the chief prosecutor said.
Charges facing Iraqi are on the level of war crimes, despite the fact that he does not fashion a military uniform belonging to any state, however he still is to be held accountable for the several systematic threats he presented to achieve his goals.
Even though Iraqi has spent over a decade in US custody at Guantanamo Bay detention center, it is worth noting that when arrested in 2006, he was leading and running the Qaeda military operations.
As to why the trials will be taking place in Guantanamo, Cuba, Martins says the US Congress passed a law in 2010 banning the reentry of Guantanamo detainees to the US. Therefore, they cannot be tried in the States– the Military Commission Act does necessarily provide that trials to be conducted in a specific place.
The defendants get legal representation as well as many other legal rights. All the more, Martins shed light on the risk present in transferring the suspects.
Addressing Iraqi’s case, Martins said that Judge Paul Rubin is in the process of reviewing appeals made by Iraqi’s defense team during the preliminary trial hearings. “A process that may take a lot of time,” the official commented.
Preparatory sessions scheduled for June 26 and 30 have been cancelled because the dates coincide with the Islamic Eid al-Fitr holiday, he added.