WASHINGTON — The military judge presiding over hearings against the alleged masterminds behind 9/11 and the attack on the USS Cole should step down due to “conflicts of interest,” a defense lawyer said Tuesday.
Richard Kammen, defense attorney for Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri — a Saudi national accused of orchestrating attacks against both the USS Cole and French tanker MV Limburg — filed a “motion to disqualify or in the alternative request the recusal of Colonel James Pohl as military judge.”
The motion was filed last week but it was not made public by the Pentagon. However, Kammen revealed the contents of the request to AFP.
Pohl — the longest-serving judge in the US military — was slated to retire on October 1, 2010, after 30 years of service, but continues to work on “special status” renewed each year, with a monthly salary of $10,577, according to the Pentagon.
“Because Judge Pohl is on a retirement recall status and can have his contract terminated every year, and he serves at the pleasure of what I call the military bureaucracy, it’s inappropriate for him to be the judge,” Kammen said.
“There’s a financial incentive for Pohl to rule in favor of the bureaucracy, Kammen added. “If (Pohl) issues rulings that displease the bureaucracy, his contract won’t be renewed.”
There is precedent for such beholden judges to rule in favor of what Kammen calls a bureaucracy, he said.
“In the history of military commissions, when a judge enters orders that displease the bureaucracy, they get fired. We think that creates some legal conflicts of interest. Under the law, that requires the judge to recuse himself.”
Pohl is the only judge operating out of Guantanamo, according to the Miami Herald, a Florida newspaper that first reported the affair.
Pohl assigned himself to the case against Nashiri, Khaled Sheikh Mohammed and four others accused of attacking the World Trade Center in 2011.
A preliminary hearing will review the motion on July 17th at Guantanamo, Kammen said.