What happens when suspected terrorists refuse to go to their trials?

Brennan Linsley/AP

Lawyers at Guantanamo aren't exactly sure what to do after a number of suspected terrorists have decided not to show up for their own trials. The latest is Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a suspected organizer of the 2000 attack on the USS Cole who decided to boycott his pretrial hearings in order to protest the use of belly chains which he would have been forced to wear. Just last week, all five of the alleged 9/11 plotters decided to stay in their cells as their lawyers discussed the terms of their clients' inevitably death penalty tribunal. Just a couple of days before that, three of those five skipped another pretrial hearing that looked at whether evidence of torture and classified matters would be discussed in their public trial. They just didn't want to go.

It's a curious problem for federal prosecutors. Are these terrorism suspects allowed to just not show up? And if they don't, how should the trial proceed? Should everybody just pretend that they're there? That feels kind of strange, doesn't it?

We don't want to oversimplify the issue, but it's basically up to the judge. In the case of the 9/11 Five, the judge judge Army Col. James Pohl gave the suspects permission not to attend their pretrial hearings. Faced with a mix of requests from all sides -- from those wanting the Pentagon to broadcast the hearing live to the prisons who want to court room darkened on Fridays on account of the Sabbath -- Pohl seems to have taken the route of least resistance. He even set up a waiver system that allowed the prisoners to sign a three-page form the morning before a trial if they wished not to attend. 

Read more at The Atlantic Wire

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.