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Lawyer wants Guantanamo 'spy' case dropped

A lawyer for a Syrian-American airman accused of spying while working as a translator in Guantanamo, Cuba, has asked a military court to dismiss the case because he lacks access to important documents he needs to defend his client.

Last Modified: 25 Mar 2004 09:13 GMT
At least 600 people are being held in Guantanamo Bay

A lawyer for a Syrian-American airman accused of spying while working as a translator in Guantanamo, Cuba, has asked a military court to dismiss the case because he lacks access to important documents he needs to defend his client.

Civilian attorney Donald Rehkopf made the request on Wednesday in one of several pre-trial motions delivered to Military Court Judge Barbara Brand at a hearing at Travis Air Force Base, 80 km north of San Francisc.

The case involves Senior Airman Ahmad al-Halabi, who is charged with espionage.

Halabi, who is in a military prison pending trial, is charged with espionage connected to his work at Guantanamo, the military base where the United States maintains a prison camp for suspected al-Qaida and Taliban fighters.

He formerly worked as a lowly supply clerk at Travis Air Force Base.

Arabic not allowed

He faces life in prison if convicted of the charges, which include carrying jail maps, letters and other sensitive documents from Guantanamo, where at least 600 foreign suspects are being held. His trial is scheduled to begin on 27 April.

Rehkopf also asked the court to lift restrictions barring his client from speaking his native Arabic so that he could communicate with his father and his fiancé, who do not speak English.

He also complained about the windowless steel jail cell Halabi inhabits during days around court proceedings at Travis.

Halabi is one of three men, including another Arabic translator and an officer in the unit interrogating prisoners, charged in connection with their work at Guantanamo.

He appeared in military court with a dark blue Air Force uniform, closely shaved hair and glasses. He politely replied "yes ma'am" and "Yes, your honour" to the judge, a former Kentucky high school math teacher.

Charges against army chaplain
James Yee were dropped

Last week, the US Army dropped all criminal charges against a fourth man, Muslim Army chaplain Captain James Yee, after earlier accusing him of spying, mutiny, sedition, aiding the enemy and espionage.

'Idiotic restrictions'

"I cannot talk to my client about many things that are relevant," Rehkopf said before the hearing started. "I cannot talk to my client about anything about Captain Yee."

"That's one of the idiotic restrictions," Rehkopf added, saying Halabi worked full-time for Yee for about five weeks.

Prosecutor Lieutenant Colonel Bryan Wheeler disagreed with Rehkopf's assessment about his access to important documents.

"This is more than adequate for the defence to conduct the defence they need to in this case," he said of what has been provided to date.

The court heard from the investigator in the case, military special agent Lance Wega.

When he was asked why the investigation had not interviewed Halabi's supervisor, Captain Tariq Hashim, Waga declined to answer, saying the information was sensitive and classified.

In December the US military dropped three charges against Halabi, 24, including one that he gave sweet pastries to prisoners.

He still faces 17 charges, including espionage, failure to obey an order, retaining documents without authority, making false statements, and making a fraudulent credit application.

Source:
Reuters
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