In attempt to speed up trials of al Qaeda suspects being held at Guantanamo Bay, the Pentagon issued an order to relocate military judges to the detention facility. Friday, the DOD rescinded the order due to criticism it was meddling in the judicial process.
Reuters reported that Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work reversed the order issued on January 7. The directive had been the brain child of retired Marine Corps Major General Vaughn Ary, the overseer of the war court of Guantanamo Bay.
Three military judges had been relieved of all their other duties and were to transfer to the Naval Base in Cuba for an indefinite time period. However, Work did an about-face on Thursday, changing the course of the order. A statement released from his office said Work “believes it is important to preserve the independence of the Military Commission (court) in appearance, as well as in fact.”
On Wednesday, the judge presiding over the trials of five suspects in the 9/11 attacks froze proceedings until the order was lifted. He cited “unlawful command influences” as the reasoning behind his action.
According to Reuters, Judge Air Force Colonel Vance Spath, who is overseeing the trial of the year 2000 bombing of USS Cole, had scheduled testimony on Friday by the senior military lawyers, or judge advocates general, for the Army, Navy and Air Force about Work’s order.
Spath went ahead with arguments over a defense motion that because of Work’s order charges should be dropped against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi charged with organizing the Cole bombing which left 17 sailors dead. He said the appearance of impartiality was crucial. He hoped to have a ruling on Monday.
Prosecutor Navy Lieutenant Paul Morris, who has been asked to rebut the allegation of unlawful influence, argued that Ary had acted in good faith and in any case Work had withdrawn his order.