[Pnews] Legal black hole descends into farce: Federal Judge orders Trump Administration to release General from Guantánamo

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Nov 3 16:05:27 EDT 2017

*Legal black hole descends into farce: Federal Judge orders Trump 
Administration to release Brigadier General John Baker from Guantánamo*

*FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, 3 November 2017

Reprieve - press release <media at reprieve.org.uk>

President Donald Trump announced during the election that he was going 
to “fill Guantánamo up with bad dudes”; more recently he has mooted the 
idea of sending more prisoners to the prison.

This week, his Administration put their first “bad dude” into detention 
in Guantánamo; bizarrely, it was US Marine Corps Brigadier General John 
Baker. General Baker, who was summarily found guilty of contempt of 
court by the military commissions judge, US Colonel Vance Spath, and 
incarcerated for 21 days with a $1,000 fine.

General Baker is the chief military defense counsel, who coordinates the 
defense of the detainees being prosecuted in the much-criticised 
military commissions in Guantánamo. Three civilian lawyers had withdrawn 
from the capital commission of Abd Al Rahim Al Nashiri, accused of the 
attack on the USS Cole in 2000. They had concluded that Government 
spying on attorney-client privileged communications had put them in an 
impossibly conflicted position, and that they could not continue without 
violating their legal ethics. General Baker’s crime was to refuse 
Colonel Spath’s demand that he should order civilian death penalty 
lawyers return to the job, which would violate their ethics and put them 
at risk of disbarment.

In finding General Baker guilty, Colonel Spath told him that he could 
not speak: “I'm denying you the opportunity to be heard. Thank you. It's 
a summary proceeding.”

Colonel Spath then found the General guilty of contempt because “on 31 
October 2017 you willfully refused to obey the commission's order to 
rescind your excusal of counsel.” He immediately sentenced the General 
to confinement: “you're held in contempt, and you are sentenced to pay 
the United States a fine in the amount of $1,000 and to be confined for 
a period of 21 days.”

General Baker had then to seek a writ of habeas corpus – the same remedy 
as the other Guantánamo detainees – from the U.S. District Court in 
Washington DC. Incidentally, Judge Royce C. Lamberth held a habeas 
hearing on November 2, 2017 for two Guantánamo detainees that day: one, 
a Muslim prisoner held for the last 15 years; another, the second 
highest ranking lawyer in the Marine Corps.

In an attempt to avoid a humiliating intervention by a federal judge, 
today the Pentagon ordered General Baker released from confinement, but 
only deferred his sentence for now. Meanwhile, his conviction remains. 
Since the General is no longer in custody for the moment, at 14:00, 
Judge Lamberth ordered that the military should be allowed extra time, 
essentially to get its house in order.

Commenting, *Shelby Sullivan-Bennis – Reprieve counsel for several 
Guantánamo detainees –* said:

“If ever there were a case that shows the absurdity of Guantánamo Bay, 
and why President Obama was correct to order it closed, it is this. The 
military commissions, always a tragedy for US democracy, have now 
descended into farce. Having evaded military service in Vietnam himself, 
the only person President Trump’s Administration has convicted in 
Guantánamo to date is now his own Marine Corps Brigadier General.”

*Notes to Editors:*

1. Reprieve is an international human rights organization. Reprieve’s 
London office can be contacted on: media at reprieve.org.uk, or +44 (0)207 
553 8140.

2. Reprieve assists several prisoners who are held without charge or 
trial at Guantanamo Bay. Some are currently 
on hunger strike in peaceful protest against their detention.

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 https://freedomarchives.org/
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