By Debbie Gregory.
Marine Brig. Gen. John Baker has been sentenced to 21 days confinement and a $1,000 fine for contempt by Air Force Col. Vance Spath, the USS Cole case judge. The death-penalty case is against suspected USS Cole attacker Abd al Rahim al Nashiri.
Baker, who had been in charge of the war court defense team representing Nashiri, was found guilty of contempt for sanctioning the defense team’s resignation. Baker, a 28-year career officer, is now the second-highest-ranking lawyer in the Marine Corps.
Nashiri is accused of plotting al-Qaida’s 2000 suicide bombing of the warship off Aden, Yemen, which took the lives of 17 U.S. sailors and injured dozens more.
Attorneys Rick Kammen, Rosa Eliades and Mary Spears quit the case due to a secret ethics dilemma. They had significant reason to believe the U.S. government was listening to their communications with Nashiri, a violation of attorney/client privilege.
Spath rejected Baker’s decision, saying that only Spath has the power to excuse an attorney of record in his court. Spath ordered the attorneys to come to Guantanamo to litigate. They refused.
“Based on the advice of my lawyers, their analysis of the law and our analysis of the circumstances we’d be facing in Virginia, we made the decision that we would not go,” Kammen said.
The ACLU has called Baker’s confinement “unlawful and an outrage” and said the Spath’s decision needs to reversed and Baker released.
Baker has become an outspoken critic of the military-federal justice system set up after 9/11.
“Put simply, the military commissions in their current state are a farce,” Baker said. “Instead of being a beacon for the rule of law, the Guantánamo Bay military commissions have been characterized by delay, government misconduct and incompetence, and even more delay.”