Tuesday, April 04, 2006
By ANDREW SELSKY
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba Apr 4, 2006 (AP) -- Courtroom rules in military trials of terrorist suspects came into question Tuesday during a pretrial hearing for a suspected al-Qaida member charged in a March 2002 grenade attack that wounded three journalists in Afghanistan.
Abdul Zahir did not enter a plea, but his U.S. military defense counsel almost immediately began asking the judge, Marine Col. Robert S. Chester, what laws he would follow in presiding over the trial. The Guantanamo Bay trials held inside a cinderblock building perched on a hill on this naval base are the first U.S. military tribunals since the World War II era.
Zahir appeared relaxed during the hearing on charges that include attacking civilians, aiding the enemy and conspiracy. He stood when the judge entered the room, unlike some other detainees in pretrial hearings.
Chester refused to be pinned down by the defense on the rules for the trial.
"We will look at military criminal law and federal criminal laws and procedures," he said.
But, when pressed by the defense attorney, Army Lt. Col. Thomas Bogar, the judge would not specify which set of laws would guide the trial.
The chief military prosecutor, who cannot be identified for security reasons, told a news conference later that the judge can choose from several standards of law "to provide a full and fair trial."
But the military commission failed to provide a Farsi interpreter for Zahir and did not provide him with the charge sheet in Farsi, Zahir's native language. Military Commission officials said they did not know why an interpreter was not available and that one should have been present for use by the prosecution.
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