Guantánamo Military Lawyers Request Extension In 9/11 Cases To Prepare Adequate Defense

August 25, 2008 12:00 am

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ACLU Says Unreasonable Deadlines Reflect Unfair Process

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GUANTÁNAMO BAY — Military defense lawyers representing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other detainees charged with 9/11 terrorism-related crimes filed a motion with the Guantánamo military commissions seeking more time to provide an adequate defense in a system that is unfair and biased in favor of the prosecution. The motion asks that the current due date for the filing of legal motions, August 29, be extended to November 25 so that proper investigation, research and communication with clients can be achieved. The motion comes after months of procedural and logistical obstacles that have hamstrung the ability of lawyers to wage a robust defense in these cases.

“In the most ordinary of situations, capital cases require more time to prepare and litigate, and this kind of deadline would be impossible to meet adequately. Given the salience of torture in these cases, as well as the due process, national security and logistical restrictions on lawyers, they are anything but ordinary,” said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union. “From the beginning, the Guantánamo military commission system has been weighted in favor of the prosecution, and the imposition of unreasonable deadlines for defense counsel is just another side of a fundamentally flawed system. Rushing through these proceedings in the blink of an eye — and without even a semblance of fairness — is unacceptable and makes a mockery of our justice system.”

The government calls the 9/11 cases the largest investigation in U.S. history and has had seven years and unlimited resources to prepare for these prosecutions.

Defense attorneys, on the other hand, have been hindered by many restrictions, including limited access to clients and the inability to consult with experts and witnesses — all critical in capital cases and especially those of such a complex nature. Two lawyers on the same case cannot even consult with each other about discussions they’ve had with their client individually. And the accused that have decided to represent themselves have been severely limited in terms of resources as well — they sometimes have trouble even getting a pen and paper. Furthermore, the use of waterboarding and other kinds of torture on detainees necessitates more time for defense lawyers to assess its nature, effects and consequences.

“Proceedings that are conducted in such a biased way can offer no true sense of justice having been achieved. All Americans — including the victims of 9/11 — deserve better than an unfair system that results in an illegitimate outcome,” added Romero.

In April, the ACLU launched the John Adams Project — a partnership with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) — to provide civilian legal representation to assist under-resourced military counsel of Guantánamo detainees.

For more information on the ACLU and NACDL’s John Adams Project, go to:

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