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Pentagon advisor is barred from trial

From the Associated Press

A Navy judge has barred a Pentagon legal advisor from participating in the war crimes trial of Osama bin Laden’s former driver, saying the advisor lacks independence.

Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Hartmann, legal advisor to the military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, must be replaced before next month’s scheduled trial of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Capt. Keith J. Allred ruled Friday.

Hartmann’s office did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

At an April 28 hearing, former chief prosecutor Air Force Col. Morris D. Davis testified that Hartmann had pushed for “sexy” cases that would capture attention.

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Defense lawyers say Hartmann rushed proceedings in hope of speedy convictions and sought improperly to select cases based on their potential to sway public opinion of the tribunal process.

Hartmann’s job is to counsel the official who makes key decisions such as whether to approve charges against individual Guantanamo detainees.

Prosecutors argued that Hartmann never subjected subordinates to unlawful influence.

Friday’s ruling directly affects only Hamdan’s case, but a civilian attorney for Hamdan said it raised questions about the validity of charges that Hartmann was involved in preparing against other terrorism suspects at Guantanamo.

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