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Terror Tribunal Defendant Demands to Be Own Lawyer

A 36-year-old Yemeni on trial here for conspiracy to commit terrorism threw the military commission proceedings into confusion on Thursday by saying that he was a member of Al Qaeda and declaring that if he was not allowed to represent himself he would boycott the trial and, if forced to attend, would only sit silently in the courtroom. The defendant, Ali Hamza Ahmed Sulayman al-Bahlul, who has been charged with being a top aide to Osama bin Laden, engaged, through translators, in a polite but aggressive 30-minute colloquy with the presiding officer in which he attacked the fairness of the process and demanded to serve as his own lawyer. Col. Peter E. Brownback III, the presiding officer on the five-member commission panel, who seemed taken by surprise when told of Mr. Bahlul’s request, first read aloud the rules drafted for the military commissions, which explicitly require a defendant to have a military lawyer. He then said: “So, the answer is that you may not represent yourself.” Full Story

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