Following days of back and forth arguments, Judge Army Col. James Pohl ruled on Thursday that a Yemeni man accused of helping orchestrate the 9/11 attacks cannot fire his attorney.
“You have not shown good cause and as a result I will not terminate Ms. Bormann’s relationship with you,” Pohl said at a hearing at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The ruling comes after a closed-door session was held on Wednesday between defendant Walid bin Attash, his lawyers, and Pohl to discuss the possibility of the man defending himself in court.
Bin Attash faces charges related to hijacking, terrorism, war crimes and conspiring with militants for his role in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. The trial of bin Attash and four other men accused of the attacks have long been delayed due to accusations of the government spying on the defense team.
On Monday, bin Attash stated that he felt he could no longer trust his defense team and wanted to fire his lead defense attorney Cheryl Bormann. He also told Pohl he had privileged information to share. The Military Times reports that Pohl told bin Attash to let go of the idea of representing himself. “It’s a bad idea … you conflated three separate issues,” he said.
According to the Miami Herald, on Wednesday Bin Attash submitted two documents which detail his reasons for wanting to remove Bormann. The documents were not made public. Judge Pohl might rule on the matter as early as Thursday.
At Monday’s hearing Pohl also ruled on a dispute which has plagued the entire trial. The defense team has accused the government of using informants to attempt to gain information on the defense strategy. However, Pohl ruled there was no conflict or potential conflict during the tribunal.
The Military Times reported that U.S. Attorney Fernando Campoamor-Sanchez told the government that there was “no conflict of interest” to investigate and called the accusations of planted informants “a red herring.”
The conflict of interest first became an issue in 2014 when the defense attorneys for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the four alleged co-conspirators said they believed they were being spied on by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Foreign Policy reported, “the FBI had secretly conducted an investigation into possible wrongdoing on the part of one or more members of the five separate defense teams (one for each defendant). Such an investigation could put defense team members in the untenable position of having to provide information to defend themselves or others against possible criminal action — information that could be used against the interests of their own clients.”
There was also the issue of interference from outside sources during the hearings. FP continues:
“In January 2013, the court’s audio-visual feed, visible to a small set of commission observers, was abruptly cut off by someone other than Judge Pohl; previously, Pohl was believed to be the only person with the authority to use the unique-to-Guantanamo ‘kill-switch.’ Later, a clearly annoyed Pohl learned that something called the Original Classification Authority (OCA) — which is likely the CIA given that most of the information subject to censorship in the case is related to the agency’s rendition, detention, and interrogation program — had hit the kill switch. Judge Pohl promptly cut off their privileges.
In February 2013, it was revealed that listening devices were hidden within smoke detectors, possibly infringing upon attorney-client privileges. The defense also claimed their emails and work files were disappearing. Former defendant Ramzi bin al-Shibh was also removed from the trial by the judge in an attempt to speed the process along after so many delays. However, critics argue that al-Shibh was removed because he refused to be quiet, complaining loudly of sleep deprivation.
The trial of the men accused of the terror attacks on September 11, 2001 has been nothing short of a sham. No justice will be found in this military kangaroo court. Regardless of the crime they stand accused of, these men are owed their day in a court of impartial judges. Unfortunately, the last 14 years of controversies have shown that these men will not receive anything closely resembling a fair and speedy trial owed to them by the 6th amendment of the U.S. Constitution.