Military Commission Trial Observation
U.S. Naval Base, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
Pretrial Hearings March 1-2, 2006
Sufiyan Barhoumi, an Algerian national, is charged by the Department of Defense with conspiring with members and associates of al Qaeda to commit terrorism, attack civilians, and murder and destroy property. Little is known about Barhoumi apart from what is in his charge sheet. According to these government allegations, from 1998 to 2002, he received training in explosives at an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan and trained other members of al Qaeda to build remote detonation devices for explosives to be later used in Afghanistan against U.S. forces. Barhoumi was captured in Pakistan on March 28, 2002 with Ghassan Abdullah al Sharbi (who is also being tried before the commissions this week) and Abu Zubaydah, now believed to be held by the United States at an undisclosed location. The allegations in the charge sheet are denied in Barhoumi’s amended habeas petition filed in the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia by Mona L. Burton with Holland and Hart. On December 13, 2005, Barhoumi through his next of friend asked the D.C. District Court to stay his military commission proceedings. Currently, Barhoumi’s pre-trial hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, March 1, 2006. Captain Daniel E. O’Toole will be the Presiding Officer at the pre-trial hearing. This is the first time Barhoumi will appear before the military commissions.
Ali Hamza Ahmed Suleiman al Bahlul
On February 6, 2004, the Department of Defense issued charges against Ali Hamza Ahmed Suleiman al Bahlul, a native of Yemen. According to the charge sheet, al Bahlul is accused of conspiring with Osama bin Laden and others to commit terrorism, attack civilians, and carry out other offenses purportedly “triable by military commission.” The charge sheet describes more than a dozen “overt acts” committed by al Bahlul in furtherance of the alleged conspiracy between 1999 and 2001, including training at an Afghan Al Qaeda military camp; preparing motivational videotapes intended to inspire violent attacks against the United States and other countries; and serving as bin Laden’s armed bodyguard. On December 13, 2005, Wesley R. Powell from Hunton and Williams filed an amended habeas petition, with al Bahlul’s father acting as next of friend, with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia requesting a stay of al Bahlul’s military commissions proceedings.
Al Bahlul has been before the military commissions twice before. His first hearing began the week of August 23, 2004, when al Bahlul, represented by Lt. Cmdr. Philip Sundell requested the right to represent himself and if that was not possible that he be represented by a lawyer from Yemen. Following the reinstitution of military commission proceedings after a brief hiatus in November 2004 due to a U.S. district court ruling, proceedings against al Bahlul began on January 12, 2006. At the January hearing al Bahlul, represented now by Army Reservist Maj. Tom Fleener, denounced the United States for denying to him the right to be represented by a non-American lawyer. At the end of his statement al Bahlul raised a small piece of paper above his head and waved it slowly for all in the commission room to see, saying, "muqataa," and then in English, "boycott, boycott, boycott." Col. Peter Brownback III, the presiding officer, ruled that al Bahlul was not competent to represent himself reasoning that someone who boycotts the proceedings cannot go forward pro se. Maj. Fleener moved to withdraw as counsel arguing that he was ethically obligated to withdraw, and that representation of a person against his wishes also might violate Fleener’s duties under state bar ethics rules. Maj. Fleener then requested a postponement of voir dire, which was granted by Col. Brownback. Al Bahlul is scheduled for voir dire proceedings on Wednesday, March 1, 2006. Col. Brownback continues to be the Presiding Officer in his case.
For further details on al Bahlul’s first military commission hearing Click Here.
For further details on al Bahlul’s second military commission hearing Click Here.
Ghassan Abdullah al Sharbi
Ghassan Abdullah al Sharbi was charged by the Department of Defense on July 6, 2004 with conspiring with members and associates of Al Qaeda, including Sufiyan Barhoumi, whose pre-trial hearing will take place this week, to attack civilians and civilian objects, murder, destroy property, and commit terrorism. Little is known about al Sharbi apart from what in his charge sheet. According the government’s allegations, al Sharbi, who spent some time in the United States attending Embry Riddle University in Arizona, attended an al Qaeda training camp where he received training in, among other things, military tactics and weapons instructions in 2001. In March 2002, he allegedly received training from Barhoumi on how to build remote detonation explosives to be used against U.S. forces in Afghanistan. He was captured on March 28, 2002 in Pakistan with Sufiyan Barhoumi and Abu Zubaydah, now believed to be held by the United States at an undisclosed location. His father, Abdullah al Sharbi, has also filed a habeas petition on his son’s behalf in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. On December 13, 2005, al Sharbi through his father asked the D.C. District Court to stay his military commission proceedings. Al Sharbi is represented in his habeas petition by Robert Rachlin with the firm Downs, Rachlin and Martin. Captain Daniel E. O’Toole will be the Presiding Officer at this hearing. This is the first time al Sharbi will be before the military commissions.