Guilty Verdict in Second Gitmo Military Tribunal ... and Conduct Unbecoming

by Andrew C. McCarthy

The second commission trial at Guantanamo Bay has resulted in the conviction of al Qaeda’s top media propagandist.  Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, 39, of Yemen, was found guilty of 35 counts of conspiracy, solicitation to commit murder and providing material support to terrorism.  One of the recruiting videos he made to inspire would-be jihadists featured scenes from the aftermath of the October 2000 U.S.S. Cole bombing, in which 17 U.S. naval personnel were killed.

Sentencing, which could be up to life-imprisonment, should occur shortly.

Bahlul refused to participate in his trial, regarding it as a political farce.  As for him, who cares?  But this, from the AP’s report, I found very disturbing:  joining Bahlul in his contemptuous demeanor was his “Pentagon-appointed lawyer [who] stayed silent during the trial, refusing to even answer questions from the judge.” 

As an attorney admitted to practice before a tribunal, and especially a military officer, one’s obligation is to lodge with all appropriate vigor the client’s objection(s) to the proceedings, but then, having thus protected the appellate record, to (a) conduct the best defense possible (understanding that one can’t force his client to cooperate) and (b) accord the judge and jury the respect and dignity to which they are entitled.

If a lawyer can’t do that, he or she should find another line of work.  They may be cheering over at the Center for Constitutional Rights, but this behavior on the part of a defense lawyer — assuming it happened as the AP says it did — is dishonorable.

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