SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – A military judge has rejected a request to allow media outlets to broadcast a war crimes tribunal at the U.S. base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, saying in a ruling released Wednesday that he lacks authority to grant such access.
The judge, Army Col. James Pohl, said the rules for military commissions, a special tribunal for wartime offenses, forbid television or radio broadcasting of the proceedings. He noted that broadcast coverage is similarly prohibited in federal civilian courts in the United States.
The constitutional right to a public trial is satisfied by allowing members of the media and the public to travel to Guantanamo to watch the proceedings, he said.
Lawyers for a Saudi prisoner, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, charged with war crimes for allegedly orchestrating the deadly attack on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000, had asked the judge to provide live video feeds of the trial to media outlets so that a wider audience could see what they believe are legal flaws in the military commissions.
Al-Nashiri faces charges that include murder in violation of the law of war for helping with the planning and execution of the attack on the Cole, which killed 17 crew members. He could get the death penalty if convicted.
The ruling applies only to the Cole bombing case but Pohl is also the judge in the trial of five Guantanamo prisoners charged in the Sept. 11 attacks.