WASHINGTON – Authorities have not decided whether a military tribunal should be used to try an alleged American Al Qaeda member suspected of plotting to explode a radioactive "dirty" bomb in the United States.
Attorney General John Ashcroft announced Monday that Abdullah Al Mujahir, also known as Jose Padilla, was in the custody of the U.S. military and was being treated as an enemy combatant.
President Bush last fall authorized the use of military tribunals for suspects in the war on terrorism. No prisoner has been assigned to a tribunal yet, and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has said the system will be used rarely, if at all.
Here are some of the rules for how tribunals would operate:
— Defendants would enjoy the presumption of innocence, be provided attorneys and not be required to testify or implicate themselves.
— Standards for evidence would be looser, with hearsay allowed, for example.
— The presiding officer of the tribunal could order closed proceedings to protect classified or sensitive material and to guarantee the safety of trial participants.
— The accused might not always be allowed to hear classified evidence against him, although his military-appointed defense counsel would always have access to that information.
— Defendants would be provided military lawyers for free and could hire outside civilian counsel if they chose.
— The panels would include three to seven officers, as do many courts-martial.
— To keep tribunal cases out of federal courts, defendants would have a very limited right of appeal to a special, three-member review panel. One member would be a military judge, and other members could be outside lawyers or experts, deputized as military officials by the president.