Noor Muhammed was arrested in March 2002 in Pakistan. He's been charged with helping to train Al Qaeda militants at a training camp in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2000. The only act he's charged with that occurred after September 11, 2001 is allegedly trying to evade local authorities by escaping from a safehouse in Pakistan in March 2002. Noor denies that he was a member of al Qaeda, or an "unprivileged alien enemy belligerent" as the U.S. claims. But though he's been imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay for eight years, the military commission still hasn't even held a hearing to decide the answer to that question. If Noor is right, the military commissions don't even have jurisdiction over his case.
Today, Capt. Moira Modzelewski, the military commission judge presiding at the hearing, announced that the hearing on that issue won't be held until August.
Still, the government has flown several dozen prosecution and defense lawyers, observers and journalists down to a hearing at Guantanamo Bay that lasted less than two hours. The issue decided? A complicated military bureaucratic question of whether Noor's previous military defense counsel could continue to represent him now that she'd been ordered by the military to another assignment.
This from a Huffington Post blog by Daphne Eviatar, who is with Human Rights First’s Law and Security Program. I had coffee with Daphne yesterday and was deeply impressed by her principled commitment to the unpopular cause of human rights for terrorist suspects. In the blog, she describes her visit to Guantanamo:
I ate at a Taco Bell yesterday, drank beer at an Irish bar last night, am staying in an air-conditioned tent ... And if you walk past the military barracks down the road to the beach, the view is positively breathtaking. There's even a diving shop where we can rent snorkeling equipment and explore the underside of the 80-degree Caribbean waters.
All that relative comfort can lull an observer into forgetting that on the other side of the military base, the side we don't get to see, men who were seized overseas, many based on statements made by wholly unreliable accusers, have been imprisoned by the United States government without trial - many even without charge - for more than 8 years.
OK I know you all are so bored hearing about Guantanamo. The domestic political constituency for caring about the rights of foreigners is so small that I could probably fit them all around my dining table. Maybe that also has something to the lack of interest in individual rights in development about which I complained yesterday. All that never ending discussion about the Geneva Convention, due process, habeas corpus, human rights, blah, blah, blah...
I suspect that among the very few who are not bored by the subject is Noor Muhammed.