As the 9/11 trial faces further delays, the United Nations has issued a report calling for the immediate release of a man accused of helping plan the 9/11 terror attacks.
A new report from the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Definition condemns the illegal detention and torture of a man who was once accused of assisting the plotters of the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York City, the Pentagon, and other planned attacks. The UN WGAD issued the new report outlining the detainment and torture of Ammar al Baluchi and calling for his immediate release and financial compensation. Al Baluchi was captured in Pakistan in April 2003 before being turned over to U.S. authorities. He has been held at a secret military prison in Cuba since 2006 after being accused of assisting the alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
“Mr al Baluchi has been subject to prolonged detention on discriminatory grounds and has not been afforded equality of arms in terms of having adequate facilities for the preparation of his defence under the same conditions as the prosecution,” the report states. The report indicates a source close to the situation has stated that al Baluchi was held without charge or access to a lawyer until at least April 2008, at which point he was unable to choose his own representation and instead given a military lawyer. “He has been deprived of due process and the fair trial guarantees that would ordinarily apply within the judicial system of the United States.”
The 2014 US Senate Intelligence Committee report on torture found that al Baluchi was taken to the CIA black site known as the Salt Pit, where he faced torture in the form of waterboarding and other simulated drowning techniques as well as physical beatings. The UN Working Group said this “widespread or systematic imprisonment or other severe deprivation of liberty” is in violation of the rules of international law which “may constitute crimes against humanity.”
In response to the report, Cmdr Sarah Higgins, a Department of Defense spokesperson, told the Independent,“ The U.S. government has the legal authority to detain al Baluchi. Until we have time to analyse the basis of their claim, we will delay further comment.”
At the same time as the UN is seeking the release of al Baluchi, the trial of KSM may face yet another delay after nearly 15 years of dead-end hearings. Military.com reports:
The judge in the Sept. 11 terror case said in court Monday that he would order Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to explain in writing why he suddenly fired the top official overseeing the war court.
Defense attorneys in the case are calling the dismissal foul play, in part because some had been hopeful of negotiating a deal in the death penalty case with Harvey Rishikof, a Mattis appointee who until Feb. 5 served as Convening Authority for Military Commissions.
Judge Army Col. James L. Pohl stated that the court needs to know why the dismissal took place. Pohl has been overseeing the case of the five men accused of directing or funding the 19 hijackers accused of crashing planes in New York City, the Pentagon, and the Pennsylvania field on September 11, 2001. According to Military.com, Pohl will issue an order in writing this week and give Mattis a deadline of March 17 for a written response explaining the reasons for the firings.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time the 9/11 trial has dealt with funny business from the government. On May 11, 2016, defense lawyers for KSM asked for judge Col. James Pohl and the prosecution team to be recused from the trial, and for the case to be shut down. Defense lawyers David Nevin and Maj. Derek Poteet say that the U.S. government destroyed evidence related to the case, according to the New York Times. The two men are unable to provide further details because the issue is classified, but Mr. Nevin said the evidence was “favorable” to the defendants.
Major Poteet also told the Times that the defense was first informed in February that Colonel Pohl would provide them with a “summary of a substitute” for the original, classified evidence. The defense requested Colonel Pohl to preserve the evidence for the record and Pohl complied. Or so they thought.
“But they learned in February, they said, that about 20 months earlier, and without their knowledge, prosecutors had obtained from Colonel Pohl a secret order that reversed his previous decision,” the Times writes. “By the time they found out, the government had already destroyed the evidence, giving them no opportunity to challenge the move.”
Major Poteet said the situation created the appearance that Colonel Pohl was “colluding with the government.” The Times reports that the original, now destroyed evidence, may have been related to one of several foreign black site prisons operated by the Central Intelligence Agency in Thailand, Poland, Romania, Lithuania and Afghanistan, and at a secret site at the Guantánamo base. KSM was tortured for several years at one of these sites before being transferred to the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba in 2006.
It is unlikely that the public will ever get the truth about the 9/11 attacks or the trials. These men will likely rot away in secret prisons for the rest of their lives.