Guantánamo: Resignation on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s Defence team

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s defence team lost a member earlier this week. On 26 March 2014, after nine years in the US Army, Major Wright tendered his resignation. Tuesday 26 August 2014 was Wright’s last day as appointed counsel for Mohammed.

Mohammed pretrial hearings

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed during the third day of pretrial hearings at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, Oct. 17, 2012 ©Janet Hamlin/Reuters,Reuter MED/MED

Wright was appointed in December 2011 to the defence of Mohammed, the purported mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks and executioner of journalist Daniel Pearl who is facing, along with three co-defendants, death sentence if convicted. Captured in Pakistan in 2003, Mohammed was first held at various CIA black sites before being transferred to Guantánamo in 2006. He is one of the two al Qaeda prisoners on whom the CIA publicly confirmed in 2008 waterboarding was used.

While Wright’s resignation cannot directly evidence the Army’s intent to remove him from the team, it only contributes to further diminish the appearance of legitimacy of the Guantánamo military commissions. Wright decided to leave the Army as he was not able to continue his defence work: required to attend a nine-month graduate program in military law, Wright was denied a deferral. The choice was clear-cut: either quit Mohammed’s defence team and attend the graduate program, or resign from the Army. In conflict with his ethical obligation to continue representing his client, after a long period of building trust with a client who was tortured and guarded by people wearing the same uniform as him, Wright eventually quit. Continue reading

US Army Sacrifices Military Career of 9/11 Mastermind’s Lawyer

Major Jason Wright

Major Jason Wright

Major Jason Wright, a military lawyer representing the interests of accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, is retiring from the U.S. Army, which was trying to force him off the defense team on the grounds that he needed to attend a graduate course this year.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is one of five accused Sept. 11 co-conspirators now in pretrial proceedings before a military commission at the Guantanamo Bay naval base, where they are also being held. The case is one of the most important in U.S. history, and the defendants could face the death penalty.

Every year, all Army majors designated as attorney must attend a graduate course in Virginia. Though he deferred the course last year, the Judge Advocate General of the Army denied Major Wright’s request this year, meaning that he must either leave the case to attend the course or resign from the army.

“I had to make a legal and ethical decision as to what I was going to do in the best interest of my client, and I chose the option which 100 percent of all defense lawyers would choose. It’s one of these law school scenarios; it’s just being played out in real life.” Continue reading