Judge defends the rights of 9/11 suspect

By: Mike Stark

Federal prosecutors' efforts to seek the death penalty against accused September 11th conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui were dealt a setback when federal Judge Leonie Brinkema ruled that Moussaoui has the right to interview suspected al-Qaeda member Ramzi bin al-Shibh, held by the U.S. government in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The government has since refused to allow Moussaoui access to bin al-Shibh, citing national security concerns, and it has hinted that it may simply drop charges against Moussaoui and transfer him to a military tribunal. If Moussaoui is transferred to a military tribunal it, will be yet another example of how the Bush administration runs roughshod over the constitution in pursuing its war on terrorism. The Sixth Amendment guarantees a defendant's right to call and interview witnesses for the defense.

Some have argued that the government wanted Moussaoui tried before a military tribunal all along, and Brinkema's ruling played into prosecutors' hands. This argument ignores how Ashcroft and the Bush administration have made a project of bending civilian courts to their will under the guise of the war on terror. From its illegal detention of thousands of immigrants to its use of anti-terror laws to seek the death penalty against sniper suspect John Muhammad, Ashcroft has attempted to redefine civil rights in the post-9/11 era. Brinkema's ruling was a blow to these efforts.

But the battle against the executions of those accused of terrorist activities is just beginning. We must build a movement to ensure that the "murky intelligence" used invade Iraq isn't used to execute suspects in military tribunals in camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay.