Yemeni prisoner again refuses to participate in Gitmo trial |

Yemeni prisoner again refuses to participate in Gitmo trial

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba – A Yemeni prisoner at Guantanamo Bay accused of serving as a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden refused Wednesday to participate in military proceedings, saying he could not receive a fair trial.Ali Hamza Ahmad Sulayman al Bahlul at one point pulled off the headphones he used to listen to a translator during a pretrial hearing and said he would boycott the tribunal – one of a series planned at the U.S. base in eastern Cuba for detainees captured in the U.S. war on terror.Earlier, it wasn’t clear if al Bahlul, who had held up a sign in Arabic saying “boycott” during a January hearing, would be willing to cooperate during Wednesday’s session. He met for the first time a day earlier with Army Maj. Tom Fleener, his military-appointed defense lawyer after refusing to do so several times before.His position became clear, however, shortly after the start of the hearing”My attending today does not mean in any way that I abandoned my intention to boycott,” al Bahlul, who has close-cropped hair and a short beard, told the presiding officer, Army Col. Peter E. Brownback, through a translator. “I am standing my ground.”The detainee insisted that he be aided by a lawyer from Yemen or that he be allowed to defend himself, saying a U.S. lawyer would be influenced by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and could not fairly represent him.Brownback, who acts as judge in the first U.S. military tribunals since World War II, said the rules of the proceedings require that detainees have a military attorney, though they can be assisted by a civilian with a license to practice law in the United States.The detainee rejected Brownback’s suggestion that he be aided by a Yemeni-American lawyer.Authorities hoped to set a trial scheduled by the end of the proceeding, which was attended by representatives of human rights groups and legal experts.Al Bahlul is charged with conspiracy to attack civilian targets and conspiracy to commit murder. He has admitted in court that he was a member of al-Qaida but denies any role in the Sept. 11 attacks.Al Bahlul allegedly created several instructional and motivational recruiting video tapes for al Qaida, including one “glorifying” the USS Cole attack in 2000, according to the U.S. military.Hearings scheduled this week for three other Guantanamo detainees facing charges were postponed.Nearly 500 people are being held in Guantanamo, some for several years, but only a handful have been charged, drawing criticism from rights activists and others.British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Wednesday he hopes the Guantanamo prison camp will close, but noted the United States had opened it in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.”I hope that the judicial process can be put in place which means that Guantanamo Bay can close,” he said during his weekly question session in the House of Commons.”However, the reason I always qualify my answer on this is as follows: this arose out of the worst terrorist act this world has ever known in which 3,000 totally innocent people lost their lives in New York,” he said. “And those people who were picked up in Afghanistan (and sent to Guantanamo) were people who were engaged in helping those reactionary forces there to defeat American and British troops.”Vail, Colorado

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