Guantanamo prisoner says he's lost hope in Obama
A Guantanamo prisoner who held up a photo of President Barack Obama as a sign of hope at a war crimes court hearing last year said on Wednesday he has lost faith that the American leader will be much different than his predecessor.world Updated: Sep 24, 2009 07:58 IST
A Guantanamo prisoner who held up a photo of President Barack Obama as a sign of hope at a war crimes court hearing last year said on Wednesday he has lost faith that the American leader will be much different than his predecessor.
Ahmed al-Darbi, who told the court in December he hoped Obama would "earn back the legitimacy the United States has lost in the eyes of the world," said in a note passed to his lawyer that he is disappointed the Guantanamo prison remains open and the military court still holds hearings.
"I say to him now that he has gone astray," al-Darbi said. Al-Darbi, 34, a Saudi who is charged with conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism, gave the note to his lawyer following a hearing at which a judge granted the Obama administration's request to delay all proceedings in his case for 60 days while the government completes a review of the system for prosecuting Guantanamo prisoners.
Obama is expected to shift some of the trials to civilian courts and has said he intends to close the prison in January. There are about 225 prisoners at the Guantanamo jail, which was created by President George W. Bush, and officials have not announced where they will be moved.
Al-Darbi had planned to read his statement in court but felt there wasn't an opportunity during the brief hearing, said his lawyer, Ramzi Kassem, who translated it for The Associated Press. The note is addressed to "his excellency, the American President Barack Obama, whose photo I held up in this place as though I had voted for him."
It criticizes Obama for "issuing certain orders and decisions" that have kept war-crimes trials pending against al-Darbi and a handful of other detainees whose cases were already in progress when he took office.
Al-Darbi faults the government for holding a hearing in another case Monday, during the Muslim holiday of Eid, and makes a reference to Obama's speech in Cairo, where the president reached out to the Middle East.
"I can tell you that the ugliness of this place and its continuing existence ... have all covered up the beautiful smile that the American president directed at you," the letter said, addressing Muslims who watched the Cairo speech.
Obama has adopted some changes to the military tribunals, and Congress is expected to adopt more as it rewrites the rules to address criticism that the courts favor the prosecution and will not withstand constitutional challenges. Obama's administration asked judges to suspend all proceedings to give it time to review which prisoners will be tried and whether they will be prosecuted in civilian courts or in revamped military courts.
Prosecutors at the base said this week that they would be ready to resume the war-crimes trials as soon as directed and shrugged off criticism of the system from defense lawyers and human rights groups.
"Our mission is to operate under the current law," the chief prosecutor, Navy Capt. John F. Murphy, told reporters. Authorities allege al-Darbi met with Osama bin Laden and trained at an al-Qaida terrorist camp. They say he plotted to blow up a ship in the Strait of Hormuz, which is the narrow entrance to the oil-rich Persian Gulf, or off Yemen, a nation that lies along the busy sea-lanes leading into the Red Sea and on to the Suez Canal. His lawyer denies the allegations and suggests his client was arrested because he is a distant relation by marriage of Khalid al-Mihdhar, one of the hijackers who crashed a plane into the Pentagon during the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Al-Darbi is married to a sister of the hijacker's wife.
The case against al-Darbi is complicated by allegations that he was brutalized in U.S. custody _ allegations of abuse that were deemed credible enough that the military prosecuted one of his interrogators. The soldier was acquitted at a court-martial.