GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba Yemeni enemy combatant Ali Hamza Ahmed Sulayman al-Bahlul caused an abrupt interruption to his military commission hearing today by asking to provide his own defense.
Al-Bahlul, who is charged with conspiracy to commit war crimes, engaged in a spirited discussion with the presiding officer, Col. Peter Brownback in todays court proceedings. He first asked to represent himself.
At this request, Brownback referred to Military Commission Order Number One, which says the accused must be represented at all relevant times by detailed defense counsel. Al-Bahluls detailed defense counsels are Navy Lt. Cmdr. Philip Sundel and Army Maj. Mark Bridges.
Brownback then began a dialogue with Al-Bahlul, explaining the qualifications to be a defense counsel in an attempt to inform him of the importance of having attorney representation. Al-Bahlul then asked that a Yemeni lawyer be allowed to represent him.
Before Brownback could respond, Al-Bahlul began making statements including that he belonged to Al-Qaeda, at which point Brownback interrupted his statement. He then advised the panel that he had not questioned the accused and that the statement had not been made under oath and is not evidence.
After more discussion regarding Al-Bahluls representation, Brownback called a recess.
Once the commission resumed, Brownback restated his understanding of Al-Bahluls desire to represent himself or, if that was not permissible, to have a Yemeni lawyer.
Brownback then directed Sundel and Bridges to prepare a brief on the matter and set a deadline of Sept. 30 for the briefing package, including the prosecutions brief and all relevant matters, to be presented to the appointing authority.
Brownback then recessed the court without setting a date for continuance since further action depends on the decision by the appointing authority, John D. Altenburg, Jr.