Sunday, December 23, 2007

The mock trial of Bilal Hussien

By Libby

Scott Horton has news from a Pentagon source that claims to have been briefed on the so-called trial. To call it a mockery of justice doesn't begin to describe the behind the scene machinations. Scott's first bullet point sums up the Pentagon's strategy.
• Under strong pressure from the U.S. military, the investigating judge closed the case and imposed a gag order. This was requested principally because the U.S. military was concerned about unfavorable media coverage. The Pentagon media strategy involves leaking information as it finds convenient to “friendly new media” (this I take to be wingnut bloggers), but restricting the flow of information to traditional media. The Iraqi judge is fully cooperating with his gag order.
It gets worse from there. "The US military has assigned a team of five [JAGs] to effectively act as prosecutors in the case." This is of course, basically illegal. Bilal's attorney from the US is not allowed to participate in the trial. The military prosecutors will be allowed to "present evidence by witnesses through remote television hook-ups from undisclosed locations" whom Bilal will not be allowed to cross-examine. Bilal is in US custody and is not allowed access to his attorney without a military representative and an interpreter in the room. So much for lawyer-client privilege.

The Pentagon is said to be "confident that they will secure a conviction in the case. Nothing is being left to chance." Indeed, the outcome would seem to be predetermined. "The judge announced on the opening day that he would recommend conviction and refer the matter to the Central Criminal Court of Iraq. This was before any evidence or arguments had been produced."

But hey, what's the point of organizing a kangaroo court if you can't guarantee the outcome prior to the proceedings? As Scott notes, it's not the first time they browbeat an Iraqi judge into delivering a desired verdict.
One judge described to me how an American Army major had intimidated and cajoled him about a case, pressuring him into a false decision. “I felt very bad about it,” he said. “But on the other hand, her unit was responsible for my security. What could I do?”
Not much I suppose when those doing the asking effectively mount their case, by dint of armed occupation.

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