ACLU Executive Director Has Front-Row Seat for Gitmo Tribunals; Daily Dispatches Posted to Group's Website

August 26, 2004

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Media@aclu.org

GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA - Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, was in the commission room this morning when a Yemeni detainee began to address his relationship to 9/11 and was cut off abruptly by the commission's presiding officer. Romero's impressions of the dramatic exchange will be online later tonight on aclu.org, along with his daily dispatches since last Sunday.

Mr. Romero released the following statement:

"Today's proceeding with Mr. al Bahlul should have been an easy one. It appears that the government had a man who was willing to confess but the system of justice at Guantanamo was so fraught with structural problems that today's hearing ended chaotically.

The translation was so poor that English speaking individuals like myself had difficulty following what was going on. One can only imagine if Mr. al Bahlul understood what was being said to him before he made a statement that appeared to implicate himself. The difficulty had to have impeded both the prosecution and the commission's functioning.

Notwithstanding the almost two years leading up to this proceeding and even the advance notice that Mr. al Bahlul wished to represent himself, the presiding officer muddied up one of the few rules that is clear in the commission process. Also, there is no excuse for the poor translation that existed today. Certainly the government had to know that Mr. al Bahlul was an Arabic speaker and it should have been prepared with first-rate translation. With the eyes of the world community on Guantanamo, al Bahlul's hearing had a seat of the pants feeling to it."

Romero's dispatches from Guantanamo are available at:
/cpredirect/18486

An ACLU report on the flaws in the system can be seen at:
/cpredirect/17016

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