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Judge Denies Expansion of Charges at Gitmo

Nearly a year after President Obama suspended military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, hearings began again this week to amend charges against detainee Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi. In the first hearing applying the recently passed Military Commissions Act of 2009, the judge allowed an amendment in the charges to change al Qosi’s status from “unlawful enemy combatant” to “alien unprivileged enemy belligerent,” pursuant to the new law. At the same time, the judge denied the motion to expand the acts alleged and the time frame for those acts, holding that such an amendment would bring “unfair surprise to the Accused.” In a separate ruling, Judge Paul ruled that further hearings would proceed in January.

The decision marks the first of what is expected to be a new round of hearings applying the new Military Commissions language, which is supposed to be more in line with the Geneva Conventions. Civil liberties groups continue to criticize the military commissions, complaining of laxer evidence rules which allow hearsay and coerced testimony in certain situations. Government lawyers defend the commissions as fair and maintain that the different evidence rules appropriately balance the exigencies wartime evidence gathering and the necessary protections for defendants.


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