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  • Top Gitmo Official Slammed With Undue Command Influence Allegations

    Complaints about the slow pace of trials at Guantanamo prompted retired Marine Maj. Gen. Vaughn Ary to recommend an order months ago that would force judges focusing on those cases to move down to the base in Cuba.

    Now, a defense lawyer at Gitmo alleges that the order amounts to “unlawful command influence,” and Gitmo judge, Air Force Col. Vance Spath, agreed, ordering Ary to appear by teleconference or in person to testify and explain the decision’s rationale.

    “Unlawful command influence” is a serious charge, and could result in the dismissal of the case and censure for the general.

    As top overseer of the war court, Ary originally wrote in an internal memo complaining about the slow pace of three specific trial proceedings at Guantanamo, and was successful in obtaining a rule change mandating that judges would have to move to Cuba until the trials were all finished, despite the fact that some of these trials have the potential to drag on for months and even years, Stars and Stripes reports.

    One of the trials involves the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000, in which 50-year-old Abd al Rahim al Nashiri faces the death penalty for masterminding the plot.

    As a high-value detainee, Nashiri has been held in Guantanamo since 2006, facing rectal feeding and waterboarding, and even a mock execution, according to the Senate intelligence committee’s report on the CIA in late 2014. Based on documents from the Joint Task Force Guantanamo, Nashiri is “one of al-Qaida’s most skilled, capable, and prolific operational coordinators.”

    Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work signed the order in January, officially mandating that the military judges involved focus exclusively on Guantanamo trials. (RELATED: In Aftermath Of Paris Attack, DOD Forces Judges To Move To Guantanamo)

    The response? Nashiri’s defense lawyer, Navy Cmdr. Brian Mizer, is arguing that Ary’s brash move constitutes “unlawful command influence” and threatens judicial independence.

    And according Spath, Ary is going to have to appear by teleconference on Tuesday or fly straight to Guantanamo Bay to testify regarding “the thought process and what he’s hoping to effect…Unlawful influence in any form is incredibly destructive to our process and we need to stop it and fix it if it’s here.” Not only that, but Spath also wants Ary to produce email correspondence relating to the memo and order signed by Work.

    Spath first became aware of the order last month, and other judges are saying that the order is nothing more than punishment for not conducting the trials at the Obama administration’s desired pace.

    Ironically, the entire controversy may actually delay proceedings altogether.

    Follow Jonah Bennett on Twitter

     

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