Presumed Guilty

From Holden:

Justice, Bush style.

A military defense lawyer told a Senate hearing on Wednesday that when military authorities first asked him to represent a detainee at Guantnamo Bay, Cuba, he was instructed that he could negotiate only a guilty plea.

The lawyer, Lt. Cmdr. Charles D. Swift of the Navy, who represents a Yemeni, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, said that he regarded the effort, in December 2003, “as a clear attempt to coerce to Mr. Hamdan into pleading guilty.”


The authorities eventually charged Mr. Hamdan with crimes involving terrorism, asserting that he was a driver and bodyguard for Osama bin Laden. A federal judge halted his trial, saying the military commissions were unconstitutional. The government has appealed.

Commander Swift read a letter in which the chief prosecutor, Col. Fred Borch of the Army, wrote that he would ensure that a defense lawyer be given access to Mr. Hamdan and that “such access shall continue so long as we are engaged in pretrial negotiations.”

Commander Swift said, “I was deeply troubled that to ensure that Mr. Hamdan would plead guilty as planned, the chief prosecutor’s request came with a critical condition that the defense counsel was for the limited purpose of ‘negotiating a guilty plea’ to an unspecified offense and that Mr. Hamdan’s access to counsel was conditioned on his willingness to negotiate such a plea.”