May 12, 2006

Court suspends Saudi’s Guantanamo trial

By Jane Sutton

MIAMI (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Friday suspended the
Guantanamo war crimes tribunal of a Saudi prisoner until after
the U.S. Supreme Court rules next month on the tribunals'

The Saudi captive, Ghassan al Sharbi, is one of 10
Guantanamo detainees charged with conspiracy to commit war
crimes and the fourth to have his case delayed pending the
Supreme Court ruling that is expected in June.

He had been scheduled to appear before a tribunal for
pretrial hearings next week at the U.S. naval base in Cuba.

In Washington, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled
that Sharbi could suffer irreparable harm if he appeared before
a tribunal that could be deemed illegal within a month.

He said the Justice Department failed to prove its claim
that delaying the tribunal "would imperil the war effort."

President Bush created the military tribunals after the
September 11 attacks to try foreign citizens on terrorism

Attorneys for another Guantanamo defendant argued before
the Supreme Court in March that the tribunals are
unconstitutional because they allow the president, through his
military subordinates, to define the crime, choose the
prosecutor and judges and set all the rules.

Sharbi, a U.S.-trained electrical engineer, testified at
his first tribunal hearing in April that he fought against the
United States, was proud of it and was willing to spend the
rest of his life in prison as "a matter of honor."

He was captured in Pakistan in 2002 and is accused of being
part of an al Qaeda cell assigned to build car-bomb detonators
for use against U.S. troops in Afghanistan. He and the other
tribunal defendants would face life in prison if convicted.

The Pentagon is going ahead with pretrial hearings in the
cases in which no delays have been granted, in hopes of
beginning the first trial in September.

An Afghan prisoner, Abdul Zahir, is scheduled to have a
pretrial hearing at Guantanamo next week. He is accused of
being an al Qaeda paymaster and taking part in a grenade attack
on a car full of civilians.

Zahir's attorneys have not asked for a delay and the
presiding officer in his case decided to move forward "to give
the accused his day in court," said Air Force Maj. Jane Boomer,
a Pentagon spokeswoman.