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Setback for Obama on Gitmo

January 29, 2009 Leave a comment

We have seen numerous examples of the Obama administration attempting to slow the decision process on a variety of fronts, from economic stimulus to troop withdrawal in Iraq. But perhaps the best example has been Guantanamo Bay, where the administration sought a freeze on all proceedings there while officials decided on the best course of action, balancing pledges to close the prison camp in Cuba with the need to deal with the prisoners contained therein.

That strategy was dealt a blow today when a military judge in Guantanamo today denied a request to delay hearing for Saudi citizen Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri by 120 days. Col. James Pohl said he found the government’s argument that the delay would better serve the interests of justice unpersuasive.

The government, Pohl wrote, sought a delay because if cases went ahead, the administration’s review could “render moot any proceedings conducted during the review”; “necessitate re-litigation of issues”; or “produce legal consequences affecting options available to the Administration after completion of the review.”

“The Commission is unaware of how conducting an arraignment would preclude any option by the administration,” said Pohl in a written opinion, which was obtained by The Post. “Congress passed the military commissions act, which remains in effect. The Commission is bound by the law as it currently exists, not as it may change in the future.”

The judge wrote that “the public interest in a speedy trial will be harmed by the delay in the arraignment.

Stay tuned to see if this causes any further problems for the administration. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs struck an optimistic tone.

Asked at a news briefing whether the decision would hamper the administration’s ability to evaluate the cases of Guantanamo detainees, Gibbs replied: “No. Not at all.”

—David Graham, Trinity ’09 and editor

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