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Bin Laden aide snubs tribunal

GUANTANAMO BAY: An alleged aide to Osama bin Laden refused to appear before a US military tribunal yesterday after his request to defend himself was denied.

Ali Hamza Ahmad Al Bahlul, a 37-year-old Yemeni accused of plotting with Al Qaeda to attack civilians, had asked to represent himself but tribunal rules allow only US citizens to serve as lawyers in the proceedings.

The presiding officer in the case at the Guantanamo Bay US naval base in a remote corner of Cuba also declined to commit to a blanket ban on the prosecution presenting evidence that could have been secured through torture.

Bahlul told the tribunal on Wednesday that no US citizen could argue on his behalf because of the psychological "scar" left by the September 11, 2001 attacks.

With Bahlul's chair in the chamber empty, the military-nominated defence lawyer, Major Tom Fleener, said he was unsure how to proceed given his client's stance and the "absurd" tribunal rules.

"I don't know have any idea what he wants," Fleener told the presiding officer, who wields power similar to a judge. "He needs his own attorney. He doesn't want me."

Fleener said Bahlul's stance had led him to seek ethical advice from his bar association in the US state of Iowa where he is licenced.

Presiding officer Colonel Peter Brownback, reprimanded Fleener for failing to file a series of motions and accused him of failing to abide by his instructions to represent his client.

Fleener said he had intentionally taken a less active stance and avoided filing certain motions because of his client's attitude that the tribunal's rules were unjust and unfair.



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