Ammar Al-Baluchi - Combatant Status Review

Combatant Status Review

Initially the Bush administration asserted they could withhold the protections of the Geneva Conventions from captives in the "War on Terror", while critics argued the Conventions obligated the United States to conduct competent tribunals to determine the status of prisoners. Subsequently, the US Department of Defense instituted Combatant Status Review Tribunals, to determine whether the captives met the new definition of an "enemy combatant".

From July 2004 through March 2005, a CSRT was convened to make a determination whether each captive had been correctly classified as an "enemy combatant". These hearings would allow Guantanamo detainees to challenge their “enemy combatant” status and ultimately their detention.

US District Court Justice Joyce Hens Green ruled that the Combatant Status Review Tribunals were unconstitutional. Nevertheless the Department of Defense scheduled Tribunals for the 14 high-value captives who were transferred from covert CIA custody, on September 6, 2006, for early winter of 2007.

The Summary of Evidence memo for Baluchi's Combatant Status Review Tribunal was drafted on February 8, 2007.

Baluchi cooperated with his tribunal. Although he was not able to call Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Saifullah Paracha or Ramzi bin al-Shibh to testify about his lack of connection to al-Qaeda, he was permitted to have his legal representative field statements they had made. He chose to put forward the statements by Mohammed and bin al-Shibh as evidence, but not the statement by Paracha.

Baluchi requested statements be garnered from Modern Electronics Corporation personnel, including Samir Sharin, Mohammed Mayer, Asraf Mayer, Ammar al-Tesqui and Sayed Tesqui that would testify he had no connections to militant forces, and that his employee records would show that he left several days before the attacks because his work permit had expired when MEC closed its Dubai branch. The tribunal judge ruled that although Baluchi's leaving Dubai a few days prior to the attacks was among the reasons for his capture, it was not relevant to seek records from his employer. Since the tribunal did not locate the individuals, Baluchi submit two statements he had written himself as what he believed his co-workers would say, and what he believed his Israeli roommates would say.

In his defence, Baluchi argued that he often acted as a "businessman" to supplement his income, and thus his signature, telephone number and similar details were easily obtained in Dubai. He admitted dealing with Marwan al-Shehhi, but said that "when approached me, he never declared himself as 'hijacker Marwan al Shehhi'. He approached me the same way he approached other individuals and companies in the U.S. — a man wanting to do business".

The Department of Defense announced on August 9, 2007 that all fourteen of the "high-value detainees" who had been transferred to Guantanamo from the CIA's black sites, had been officially classified as "enemy combatants". Although judges Peter Brownback and Keith J. Allred had ruled two months earlier that only "illegal enemy combatants" could face military commissions, the Department of Defense waived the qualifier and said that all fourteen men could now face charges before Guantanamo military commissions.

In February 2008, Baluchi was committed to a joint trial, charged with conspiracy, attacking civilians and civilian objects, causing serious bodily injury, murder, destruction of property, hijacking, terrorism and providing material support for terrorism.

Al Baluchi, Walid Bin Attash, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed chose to serve as their own attorney. They requested laptops, and internet access, in order to prepare their defenses. In October 2008 Ralph Kohlmann ruled that the men be provided with the computers, but not the internet access. Al Baluchi's request said he was a Microsoft Certified software engineer.

On December 8, 2008, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed told the judge that he and the other four indictees wished to confess and plead guilty; however, the plea would be delayed until after mental competency hearings for Hawsawi and bin al-Shibh. Mohammed said, "We want everyone to plead together."

Read more about this topic:  Ammar Al-Baluchi

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