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Pre-hearing Comments from the Defense

Defense counsel James Connell and LTC Sterling Thomas

James Connell, Connell Law LLC, and Air Force LtCol, Sterling Thomas, Office of the Chief Defense Counsel, representing Abd al Aziz Ali, one of the five High Value Detainees whose cases are being adjudicated this week, provided the following observations:
  • Abd al Aziz Ali was captured by the CIA in 2003 and was held secretly at a black site for three years before his transfer to GTMO.  Mr. Connell says that the Military Commission proceedings have taken so long to come to bear "because the U.S. decided to detain people secretly and arbitrarily instead of bringing them to a court... delaying the ordinary means of justice."
  • Charges against Abd al Aziz Ali are basically that he was involved in the transfer of money to the 9/11 hijackers.
  • Abd al Aziz Ali decided to accept legal representation only in 2011, at which time his case had already been joined to that of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.  (Probably not good career move, his counsel concedes to DSJ.)
  • While there has been discussion of the case going to trial in mid-2015, Mr. Connell believes that mid-2016 is more likely given the current pace of deliberations.  
  • LTC Thomas termed GTMO "the legal equivalent of outer space."
  • Lack of access to classified information on their cases is perhaps the key issue for the five defense teams, which claim access to only a fraction (250,000-300,000 of over 10 million pages of discoverable information) that is available to the prosecution.  Abd al Aziz Ali formed the basis for the character Ammar al-Baluchi in the recent movie "Zero-Dark-Thirty" and Mr. Connell finds it odd that Hollywood has greater access to information than does the defense.  (Only 
  • Although Abd al Aziz Ali knows that he will never leave GTMO, even if found not guilty, he wants it known what was done to him. 

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