Another Judge Quits Guantánamo Case

7 months ago 207

No caller justice has been named to preside successful the proceedings of a Qaeda commander, which has had 4 judges successful 7 years.

Lt. Col. Michael D. Zimmerman of the Marines is stepping down   arsenic  the presiding justice  successful  a warfare  crimes proceedings  for a fellowship astatine  the F.B.I.
Credit...Office of Military Commissions

Carol Rosenberg

Dec. 23, 2021, 5:35 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON — A Marine justice presiding astatine a warfare crimes proceedings astatine Guantánamo Bay stepped down connected Thursday due to the fact that helium was offered a fellowship astatine the F.B.I., the latest unit alteration successful what has go a revolving doorway astatine the court.

Lt. Col. Michael D. Zimmerman was the 4th justice to preside implicit the lawsuit of Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, 61, who was arraigned successful 2014. Mr. Hadi is accused of commanding Taliban and Qaeda fighters who committed warfare crimes by targeting troops and civilians with termination bombings and roadside explosives devices and by firing connected aesculapian evacuation helicopters successful Afghanistan successful 2003 and 2004.

Colonel Zimmerman’s departure illustrates a cardinal occupation that has bedeviled the hybrid military-civilian tribunal that President George W. Bush established aft the Sept. 11, 2001, violent attacks. Unlike national judges, who are fixed beingness appointments, subject judges mostly service for a fewer years astatine subject commissions and past determination connected to different ineligible roles oregon retire, creating delays and disrupting continuity successful cases.

The Sept. 11 trial has had 4 judges beryllium astatine Guantánamo successful astir a decade, and 3 subject judges handled the cases administratively from afar during the coronavirus pandemic. The Saudi captive who is accused of plotting the termination bombing successful 2000 of the Navy destroyer Cole has had 4 judges successful a decade. The lawsuit of the Qaeda courier Majid Khan progressive 4 judges from blameworthy plea to assemblage sentence.

The revolving quality of the subject committee judiciary has besides created struggle of involvement challenges successful instances erstwhile judges oregon their unit members secretly sought post-service positions astatine the Justice Department, which sends prosecutors and F.B.I. agents to the Guantánamo cases. In the U.S.S. Cole superior case, an appeals tribunal voided 2 years of enactment by an Air Force justice who hid his pursuit of a civilian occupation arsenic an migration tribunal justice portion serving connected the case.

Colonel Zimmerman’s lawsuit is different. He goes to the F.B.I. fellowship for a twelvemonth done an in-service acquisition programme that sends active-duty Marines to warfare colleges, backstage universities and authorities fellowships for vocation enhancement.

The colonel wrote successful a 10-page ruling, which was released with uncharacteristic haste by the Pentagon, that helium ranked the F.B.I. programme arsenic his archetypal prime fellowship successful an online exertion connected Nov. 6.

He learned past week that helium was chosen for it, helium said, and suspended each Guantánamo lawsuit enactment portion helium considered his options.

Colonel Zimmerman besides said that helium had the prerogative to cull the fellowship, which starts successful the summer, and enactment connected the case.

Instead, helium said helium chose to discontinue the lawsuit due to the fact that “under the totality of the circumstances, the information that the F.B.I. volition apt person a important relation successful this lawsuit raises the imaginable that an mean national could, knowing each of the facts, reasonably question my impartiality.”

The colonel besides canceled the adjacent hearing successful the case, scheduled for Jan. 4 to 7, which was to address, successful part, imaginable reconsideration of rulings by a erstwhile justice who sought employment astatine the Justice Department portion presiding successful the lawsuit but had not disclosed it.

Defense lawyers successful the lawsuit connected Monday called connected Colonel Zimmerman to discontinue and to vacate rulings helium had made since being assigned to the lawsuit successful September 2020. He rejected that information of the request, saying helium would inactive beryllium paid by the Marine Corps portion assigned to “any outer agency” and did not question employment astatine the F.B.I.


In 2014, erstwhile Mr. Hadi was arraigned, the lawsuit was expected to beryllium 1 of Guantánamo’s much straightforward battlefield cases and spell much swiftly to proceedings than the associated death-penalty proceedings of 5 men who are accused of plotting the Sept. 11 attacks. That lawsuit has been mired successful pretrial proceedings for astir a decade.

For starters, it is simply a noncapital prosecution, meaning the defence squad for Mr. Hadi, who says his existent sanction is Nashwan al Tamir, was entitled to less resources and perchance little evidence. In addition, the C.I.A. held him from his seizure successful Turkey successful 2006 to his transportation to Guantánamo Bay successful April 2007, a shorter clip incommunicado than astir of the prison’s different high-value detainees.

But the lawsuit inactive has nary proceedings day and is successful pretrial proceedings, successful portion due to the fact that of wellness issues. All nationalist hearings were postponed during the archetypal 500 oregon truthful days of the pandemic. Colonel Zimmerman presided remotely successful immoderate classified sessions during that time, and helium presided successful his archetypal nationalist proceeding astatine Guantánamo Bay successful July.

Before that, the captive underwent a bid of exigency surgeries successful little than a year, starting successful 2017, aft guards discovered him incontinent and suffering paralysis successful his cell. The Pentagon rushed a neurosurgical squad to the basal earlier Hurricane Irma this summertime for the archetypal of 5 spine surgeries successful 9 months.

The prosecution has formed a spotlight connected the challenges of providing analyzable aesculapian attraction for the prison’s aging detainees.

Congress forbids the transportation of detainees to the United States for wellness attraction oregon immoderate different reason, truthful specialists and surgical instrumentality were repeatedly airlifted to the base. Defense lawyers uncovered an email from a doc astatine Guantánamo successful October 2017 recommending that 1 of Mr. Hadi’s surgeries had failed, and that helium should person an cognition astatine a Navy infirmary successful the United States.

Since the surgeries, Mr. Hadi has utilized a wheelchair, walker and infirmary furniture successful court. In 2019, the Defense Department shipped a jumbo, wheelchair-accessible holding compartment to the tribunal compound, Camp Justice, truthful that helium could walk nights determination alternatively than hazard symptom successful a bumpy regular commute from prison.

Lawyers reported this twelvemonth that Mr. Hadi had suffered paralysis successful his situation compartment and was attended to by different erstwhile C.I.A. prisoners.

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