Ex-Prosecutor to Serve as Defense Witness in Terror Case
Friday, February 22, 2008
The former chief military prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, said yesterday that he will be a defense witness for the driver of Osama bin Laden.
Air Force Col. Morris D. Davis, who resigned over alleged political interference in the U.S. military tribunals, said he will appear at a hearing for Salim Ahmed Hamdan.
"I expect to be called as a witness. . . . I'm more than happy to testify," Davis said. He called it "an opportunity to tell the truth."
It is not clear whether the Pentagon will allow Davis to testify. In December, two months after he resigned as the chief prosecutor for the Guantanamo war crimes tribunals, the Defense Department barred Davis from appearing before a Senate subcommittee.
Hamdan's defense team plans to argue at an April pretrial hearing that the alleged political interference cited by Davis violates the Military Commissions Act, said Hamdan's military attorney, Navy Lt. Brian Mizer.
Davis alleged, among other things, that Pentagon general counsel William J. Haynes II said in August 2005 that any acquittals of terrorism suspects at Guantanamo would make the United States look bad.
"He said, 'We can't have acquittals; we've got to have convictions,' " Davis recalled.
Davis, now head of the Air Force judiciary, said civilian political appointees have improperly interfered with the work of military prosecutors.
"I think the rules are fair," he said. "I think the problem is having political appointees injected into the system. They are looking for a political outcome, not justice."
A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, denied that Haynes made such a comment. Gordon also denied the former prosecutor's allegations of political interference.
If the judge rejects the motion to dismiss, Mizer said, the defense will seek to remove two top officials in the system of military commissions -- the legal adviser, Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Hartmann, and the convening authority, Susan Crawford -- from Hamdan's case. Such a removal would probably result in further delays to a trial that has been stalled by legal challenges.
The U.S. government holds about 275 men at Guantanamo Bay and plans to prosecute about 80 before military commissions. The Pentagon this month charged six detainees with murder and war crimes for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It said they could be executed if convicted.
Hamdan would face up to life in prison if the tribunal convicts him of conspiracy and supporting terrorism.