U.S. general barred from another Guantanamo trial

Thu Aug 14, 2008 4:13pm EDT
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By Jane Sutton

GUANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba (Reuters) - A U.S. general described by colleagues as a bully was barred on Thursday from further involvement in the war crimes trial of a young Afghan prisoner at Guantanamo, the second time the legal advisor has been blocked from a case.

The judge also ordered that the attempted murder charges against defendant Mohammed Jawad, 23, be sent back to the Pentagon official overseeing the tribunals for revalidation.

But the judge refused to drop the charges against Jawad, who is accused of throwing a grenade into a U.S. military jeep at a bazaar in Kabul in December 2002, wounding two U.S. soldiers and their Afghan interpreter.

Jawad's military lawyers said the charges should be thrown out because they were tainted by unlawful influence from Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann, the officer appointed to give impartial legal advice to the Pentagon appointee overseeing the war crimes tribunals at the U.S. military base in Cuba.

The judge said there was evidence Hartmann "desired to control the entire operation" but that the decision to charge Jawad was made independently by an acting chief prosecutor.

Still, he said Hartmann's public statements aligning himself with the prosecution had compromised his ability to act impartially in an appeals process if Jawad is convicted.

Hartmann's ouster from Jawad's case highlights some of the fractures within the U.S. military regarding a tribunal process condemned by human rights advocates as rigged to convict and politically driven. Several of those involved have said they were pressured to get high-profile cases moving before the November U.S. presidential election.

'SEXY' CASES   Continued...

<p>A photo of a sketch by courtroom artist Janet Hamlin, reviewed by the U.S. Military, shows the Sept. 11 attacks co-conspirator suspects (L) during their court hearing inside a U.S. military war crimes court at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba, June 5, 2008. REUTERS/Janet Hamlin/Pool</p>