Lawyers plead for help at US war crimes hearings
WASHINGTON: A lawyer for an accused Al Qaeda financial expert from Sudan made a plea on Friday for extra help defending him against war crimes charges before a US military tribunal.
Military authorities announced meanwhile that another nine Al Qaeda and Taliban detainees would soon be charged and that some major names would follow after.
The military-appointed lawyer for Ibrahim Ahmaed Mahmoud al-Qosi was the second this week to urge faster action by military authorities to provide help to defend detainees at the Guantanamo Bay US Naval Base in Cuba.
Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Sharon Shaffer said one official request for an assistant counsel had already been denied since she was named to defend Qosi in February.
She said she has also had requests for access to witnesses and evidence denied. “I am concerned,” she told reporters after Friday’s hearing at which prosecutors outlined general charges against Qosi of conspiracy to attack civilians, carry out murder and commit terrorism.
According to military prosecutors, Qosi joined Al Qaeda in 1989 and arranged for the transfer of funds for Osama bin Laden’s group and was an accountant for a Sudanese front company. His next hearing was set for October 4.
Shaffer said she had been told she would be moved from defending Qosi to become an Air Force judge and so stopped preparing the case in July. It was only on Wednesday that she was told she would be staying to help the Sudanese defendant.
She told the tribunal the “conflict” over her future was now over. “My own issues over the lack of resources to adequately prepare this case are not,” she complained.
Lieutenant Commander Charlie Swift, who is defending bin Laden’s personal driver, Salim Ahmad Hamdan, also complained about lack of help with the workload when his Yemeni client was formally charged on Tuesday.
Colonel Will Gunn, chief defence counsel at the military commissions, said he wanted two defence lawyers and a legal assistant for each defendant.
Four Guantanamo detainees, also including Australian David Hicks, have this week been before military commissions that have been strongly criticised by defence lawyers and human rights groups.
Eleven detainees are close to being charged and after the hearing chief prosecutor Colonel Bob Swann said another nine cases would be declared ready for charges “in the next couple of weeks”.
He indicated some major names would soon be recommended for warcrimes prosecution. afp