Guantánamo chief prosecutor retires ahead of 9/11 trial

WASHINGTON – Army general who led war crimes prosecutions in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba for a decade, retires and postpones the trial of five men accused of conspiring in the September 11, 2001 attacks to a successor not yet chosen. .

Brigadier General Mark S. Martins of the military served as chief prosecutor of military commissions in the Obama and Trump administrations.

His decision to retire came as a surprise as he had been granted an extension to hold the position until January 1, 2023. Instead, he will retire on September 30, according to a notice sent by Karen V. Loftus, member of the prosecution. Member of Parliament, to the families of the 3,000 people killed in the September 11 attacks.

Defense officials said a board of directors was likely to be formed to select a new chief prosecutor, who would have the rank of army colonel or naval captain rather than the rank of general a star.

General Martins, a graduate of Harvard Law School at West Point, had been the public face of military commissions for many years. During his early years in this post, he embarked on a speech campaign to promote the hybrid form of justice established by the Bush administration after the invasion of Afghanistan.

The Obama administration made some changes to the system and continued the 9/11 affair against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four accomplices accused in Guantanamo, rather than in federal court. Their case has been mired in preliminary proceedings since their indictment in May 2011.

Although the case currently has no military judge designated to hear it, Pentagon officials are preparing for its first hearings since February 2020 which will take place in the first two weeks of September, coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the attacks.

Ms Loftus said General Martins chose to retire “in the best interests of the business at hand”. Military commission hearings are set to resume next week for the first time since the start of the pandemic, in a case accusing an Iraqi man of commanding forces that committed war crimes in Afghanistan in 2002 and 2003.

Ms Loftus called the timing “the perfect window to identify a successor” as procedures are “finally in sight again for all of our cases after the pandemic pause”.

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