WASHINGTON — One of the five men accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks filed an appeal asking that the charges against him be dropped, after a court threw out the conviction of Osama bin Laden’s ex-driver.
Saudi national Mustapha al-Hawsawi claimed he should benefit from the US appeals court ruling for Salim Hamdan, which said a law that listed material support for terrorism as a war crime could not apply to him retroactively.
Hawsawi’s attorneys are requesting that charges be dropped if prosecutors cannot demonstrate that the alleged offenses were “recognized law of war violations” before Congress passed the 2006 Military Commissions Act.
The law defined as enemy combatants those who engaged in hostilities against the United States and authorized them to be tried in special military commissions held at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in southern Cuba.
“The government must demonstrate that each offense for which the accused are charged in this case was a recognized law of war offense at the time of the alleged conduct, and that the charges were properly brought as such,” Hawsawi’s lawyer Walter Ruiz said in a statement.
Hawsawi faces charges for actions taken between May and September 2001.
The appeal, which was listed on the military commissions website, must be submitted to a Pentagon review before it can be published in full.
The next hearing for the five accused 9/11 plotters is set for December 3-7 at Guantanamo.
But James Connell — attorney for Ammar al-Baluchi, the nephew of self-proclaimed September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — told AFP he has asked for a delay for personal reasons. The hearing could then take place from January 28-February 1.
In a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, lawyers for the five men asked that he authorize the broadcast of “the most significant criminal trial in the history of our country.”
At present, the proceedings are only retransmitted via closed-circuit television to a room at Fort Meade outside Washington that is open to the press and the public, as well as to other sites open to victims’ families.
At Guantanamo, reporters, representatives of human rights groups and relatives of the victims of the attacks watch hearings from behind soundproof glass, receiving audio only after a 40-second delay.
Australian David Hicks, the first Guantanamo detainee to plead guilty in a military commission, in March 2007, has indicated that he plans to appeal his conviction based on the Hamdan ruling.
Others could follow suit.
“The Hamdan decision strikes at the heart of an already frail and unsettled military commissions system,” said Ruiz. “This decision signals that even if and when these cases are tried, the end is nowhere in sight.”