GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (AP) - A military judge crafted a stern warning Tuesday for a Guantanamo prisoner who says he may want to act as his own lawyer to fight charges that could get him the death penalty for his alleged role in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.
Walid Bin Attash, one of five prisoners at the U.S. base in Cuba facing trial by military commission for planning and aiding the attack, has not formally requested to act as his own lawyer but he did tell the judge that he was considering it, a statement that put this week’s pretrial proceedings on pause.
The judge, Army Col. James Pohl, prepared a response to Bin Attash’s request taking input Tuesday from the prosecution and defense lawyers. He was initially expected to read the 24-page document to the defendant Wednesday but the session was later postponed until Thursday. The accused will then be given a chance to decide if he wants to go through with it.
Defense lawyers say the defendant will face enormous challenges that include not having access to classified evidence that will play a significant role in the case or even a desk or library inside his high-security prison unit to prepare his case. Defense attorney James Connell said it would be “virtually impossible,” for any of the accused to adequately provide their own defense under the circumstances.
Bin Attash and the four other defendants face charges that include terrorism, hijacking and nearly 3,000 counts of murder in violation of the laws of war. They could get the death penalty if convicted. No trial has been scheduled.
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