'Sexy' terror cases pushed

The Age
Jane Sutton
May 1, 2008

A PENTAGON legal adviser accused of improperly influencing Guantanamo Bay prosecutions dictated which cases would be tried, based on the possibility that they would pique US public interest.

Army prosecutor Lieutenant-Colonel William Britt said in a sworn statement that the lawyer, US Air Force Brigadier-General Thomas Hartmann, explained his selections this way: "This case is going to seize the imagination of the American public and that case won't."

Colonel Britt's statement came a day after the former chief prosecutor, US Air Force Colonel Moe Davis, testified that the Guantanamo court set up to try terrorism suspects had been tainted by politics and improper influence from senior officials.

General Hartmann is a lawyer picked to provide legal advice to the Pentagon appointee overseeing the Guantanamo court, Susan Crawford.

He did not attend hearings in Cuba this week and a court spokesman said he would have no comment.

Colonel Davis said General Hartmann became the de facto chief prosecutor, rushing through some cases to influence US and Australian elections and pushing prosecutors to file "sexy" cases to justify the existence of the widely criticised court.

In his testimony, deputy chief defence lawyer Michael Berrigan described General Hartmann as a bully who tried to overrule defence decisions and refused requests for experts and facilities to help prepare cases.

Mr Berrigan said charges against six Guantanamo prisoners facing possible execution as September 11 plotters were drafted by civilian lawyers who worked for General Hartmann, and that the general had draft copies of the charges two weeks before military prosecutors signed them.

The testimony came during pretrial hearings for Yemeni prisoner Salim Hamdan, who admits he was Osama bin Laden's driver. Hamdan faces life in prison if convicted.

His lawyer asked the judge to dismiss the charges.

"Mr Hamdan cannot be tried in a system where politicians hold the final say over who is charged and what the charges will be," he said. REUTERS

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