SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – The Pentagon announced Tuesday it dropped war-crimes charges against five Guantanamo Bay detainees after the former prosecutor for all cases complained that the military was withholding evidence helpful to the defense.
America's first war-crimes trials since the close of World War II have come under persistent criticism, including from officers appointed to prosecute the alleged terrorists. The military's unprecedented move was directly related to accusations brought by the very man who was to bring all five prisoners to justice.
Army Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld had been appointed the prosecutor for all five cases, but at a pretrial hearing for a sixth detainee earlier this month, he openly criticized the war-crimes trials as unfair. Vandeveld said the military was withholding exculpatory evidence from the defense, and was doing so in other cases.
The chief prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay has now appointed new trial teams for the five cases to review all available evidence, coordinate with intelligence agencies and recommend what to do next, a military spokesman, Joseph DellaVedova, said in an e-mail.
DellaVedova said the military might renew the charges against the five later.
Clive Stafford Smith, a civilian attorney representing detainee Binyam Mohamed, said he has already been notified that charges against his client would be reinstated.
"Far from being a victory for Mr. Mohamed in his long-running struggle for justice, this is more of the same farce that is Guantanamo," Stafford Smith said. "The military has informed us that they plan to charge him again within a month, after the election."
Army Lt. Col. Bryan Broyles, who represents one of the prisoners whose charges were dropped, said the military might be preparing the tribunals to face increased scrutiny following next month's presidential election. John McCain and Barack Obama have both said they want to close Guantanamo.
The five detainees are Noor Uthman Muhammed, Binyam Mohamed, Sufyiam Barhoumi, Ghassan Abdullah al Sharbi and Jabran Said Bin al Qahtani.