A military-appointed judge ordered that the hearing, which was to determine whether Captain James Yee should face a court martial, be resumed on 19 January 2004 to give authorities time to conduct a proper security review of documents and other case materials.
Yee, a New Jersey-born Chinese-American who converted to Islam in the 1990s, was arrested in September on suspicion of being part of a spy ring at Guantanamo, where he had contact with some of the 660 people being held by the United States as part of president Bush’s so called ‘war on terror.’
Yee was held for more than two months much of which time he spent being restrained in leg irons and handcuffs. He was eventually charged with improperly taking and transporting classified material, adultery, storing pornography on a government computer and lying to military personnel. All the charges are punishable under military law, but none are related to espionage.
Yee’s lawyers said on Tuesday that the military’s request to delay the hearing demonstrated that its case against Yee was in disarray and should never have been brought forward.
‘I’m really hoping that cooler heads prevail and that those in authority turn their attention to more important matters’
Eugene Fidell, defence lawyer
“There are a lot of people (in the military) who should have red faces right now,” Eugene Fidell, the lead civilian defence lawyer for Yee, told reporters. “I’m really hoping that cooler heads prevail and that those in authority turn their attention to more important matters,” said Fidell, who added that the delay could end up violating his client’s constitutional right to a fair and speedy trial.
An Army spokesman said the military would use the adjournment to conduct a “classification review” of the evidence. The unexpected halt to Yee’s hearing came one day after the military began outlying it’s case.
On Monday a Department of Homeland Security special agent told the court that “suspicious” notes with information about detainees and interrogators at Guantanamo were found in Yee’s backpack when he was searched on 10 September after arriving at the naval air station in Jacksonville, Florida.
Other witnesses testified that Yee had cheated on his wife while serving at Guantanamo and had downloaded hundreds of pornographic images onto his government-issued laptop computer, which was also seized in Jacksonville.
Yee, who left the military in the 1990s to study Arabic in the Middle East and rejoined as a chaplain before the 11 September, 2001, attacks, could be sentenced to 13 years in prison if convicted of all the charges.