By William Glaberson
International Herald Tribune
Published: July 29, 2008
GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba: On the surface, the proceedings unfolding inside a makeshift courthouse on a hill here resemble a U.S. trial. A judge wearing a black robe presides. There is a public gallery and a witness stand. Prosecutors present witnesses, and defense lawyers cross-examine them. Objections are made and ruled upon.Okay, I'm supposed to provide witty comment at the point... but what's there to say?
But behind the judicial routine at the first trial for a Guantánamo detainee lies a parallel universe of law and lawyers.
Secret evidence held in red folders is not revealed in open court. The gallery is mostly empty because there are no members of the public. In what would be the jury box, every occupant wears a military uniform.
In the first week of the trial of Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's driver, law enforcement officials recounted what he had said during interrogations in the years since he was detained in 2001. But it was also disclosed that some of the interrogations had been conducted in the middle of the night and by men wearing masks, and that Hamdan did not have a lawyer during those sessions, nor was he warned that he might be prosecuted.
Hamdan's trial is, in a sense, two trials. Hamdan is being tried on accusations of conspiracy and material support of terrorism. And the Bush administration's military commission system itself is on trial.
... some of the interrogations had been conducted in the middle of the night and by men wearing masks, and that Hamdan did not have a lawyer during those sessions, nor was he warned that he might be prosecuted.What has become of my country?
Stop the madness!