BY CAROL ROSENBERG crosenberg@MiamiHerald.com
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba --
In an eventful resumption of the U.S. war-crimes court today, an al Qaeda filmmaker declared a boycott of the Military Commission, which he described as the work of infidels -- and an Army colonel compelled a clearly distraught U.S. lawyer to defend the alleged terrorist anyway.
Separately, the military was due to bring a Canadian teenager before a military judge later today to face murder charges from a 2002 gunfight in Afghanistan.
Today's hearing was the first session of a Military Commission in more than a year.
The day-long drama underscored a variety of issues facing the new legal process created in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks:
A reserve Army major who had been called to duty to defend Osama bin Laden's alleged propagandist has said he is in ethical peril by defending a client who rejects him;
The process itself is under constitutional challenge before the U.S. Supreme Court, which hears oral arguments in March;
And defense lawyers said the arraignment of Omar Khadr, 19, violates the Laws of War because the Canadian was 15 at the time of the alleged crime, a firefight in which an Army medic died.
Earlier, Ali Hamza Bahlul, 37, took center stage 14 months after he stunned the court by boasting of membership in al Qaeda. This time, he delivered an anti-American manifesto, orally for the record -- and then disavowed the process.
"You will rule in this life, and Allah will rule based on justice," the Yemeni said, waived a hand-drawn Arabic sign in the court declaring a single word, muqataa ("boycott").
"Boycott, boycott, boycott," he said in his only English utterance, before smiling at the judge, putting his hand on his heart in a traditional salute and declaring shukran, Arabic for "thank you."
From there he was silent as U.S. military lawyers dueled over the future of the proceedings, which were recessed for an undetermined period of time.
Photography of the proceedings is banned, according to a military spokesman, because the U.S. government is respecting that portion of the Geneva Conventions that forbids parading a captive before the cameras.
Bahlul was wearing khaki pants, loafers and a blue button-down shirt for his war-crimes court appearance -- and was sporting a trim beard and mustache. His head was not covered.
For the first time, also, the Army colonel acting as presiding officer was wearing black robes rather than a uniform.