The Department of Defense announced today that charges were referred to a military commission in the cases of Binyam Ahmed Muhammad and Ghassan Abdullah al Sharbi by the appointing authority, John D. Altenburg Jr. on Dec. 12, 2005. Altenburg previously approved charges on Muhammad and al Sharbi on Nov. 4, 2005. Referral is the step in the military commission process where the appointing authority designates the presiding officer and panel members who will hear a particular case. A trial date has not yet been set.
Muhammad and al Sharbi's cases were referred as noncapital cases to a panel consisting of six members and two alternate members. Marine Col. Ralph H. Kohlmann who has 18 years of experience as a judge advocate, was selected as the presiding officer for Muhammad's case. Navy Capt. Daniel E. O'Toole who has 21 year of experience as a judge advocate, was selected as the presiding officer for al-Sharbi's case. Both officers are currently performing duties as military judges.
The remaining panel members for both cases consist of three Air Force colonels, two Army colonels and a Navy captain. A Navy lieutenant commander and a Marine Corps lieutenant colonel are alternate members. The presiding officers will be contacting attorneys in the near future to set an initial trial schedule.
Muhammad and al Sharbi are presumed innocent of any criminal charges unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt at a military commission. Military commission procedures provide for a full and fair trial to 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; no adverse inference if an accused chooses not to testify; and an appeal to an independent and impartial review panel. Military commissions have historically been used to try violations of the law of armed conflict and related offenses.
Copies of the referral memorandums, and charges are available at: http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Dec2005/d20051215muhammad.pdf and http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Dec2005/d20051215sharbi.pdf .