The Department of Defense announced today that Guantanamo detainees Ali Hamza Ahmed Sulayman al Bahlul of Yemen and Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi of Sudan have been assigned military defense counsel. Although neither detainee has been charged, both are in the group of six detainees President Bush determined to be subject to his military order of Nov. 13, 2001. Military commission rules require that a defense counsel be available to an accused sufficiently in advance of trial to prepare a defense.
Air Force Lt. Col. Sharon Shaffer was detailed to represent al Qosi and Navy Lt. Cdr. Philip Sundel and Army Maj. Mark Bridges were detailed to represent al Bahlul by the Chief Defense Counsel, Air Force Col. Will Gunn.
The appointing authority has not made the decision to approve charges and refer al Bahluls or al Qosis cases to trial. Since no charges have been approved, no trial dates have been set. Al Bahlul and al Qosi are presumed innocent of any criminal charges until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt at a military commission.
Military commission procedures include: the presumption of innocence; a requirement for proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; representation by a military defense counsel free of charge with the option to retain a civilian defense counsel at no expense to the U.S. government; an opportunity to present evidence and call witnesses; and a prohibition against drawing an adverse inference if an accused chooses not to testify. Military commissions have historically been used to try violations of the law of armed conflict and related offenses.