Alleged Al-Qaida Commander Gets New Judge at Guantanamo War Court

In this sketch by court artist Janet Hamlin, Hadi al Iraqi is arraigned in Military Commissions at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba, Wednesday, June 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Janet Hamlin, Pool)
In this sketch by court artist Janet Hamlin, Hadi al Iraqi is arraigned in Military Commissions at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba, Wednesday, June 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Janet Hamlin, Pool)

A U.S. Marine colonel has been named to replace a Navy captain who commuted to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, from Italy for pretrial hearings in the war crimes case of an Iraqi captive accused of commanding al-Qaida's army in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The captive was charged in June 2014 as Abd al Hadi al Iraqi, accused of war crimes punishable by life in prison as the alleged commander of forces that killed U.S. and foreign allied troops in 2002-04 wartime Afghanistan.

The chief of the war court judiciary, Army Col. James L. Pohl, assigned Marine Col. Peter S. Rubin to preside at the case effective Nov. 1, without explanation. Rubin is currently a circuit judge with the Navy-Marine Corps Trial Judiciary based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

The current judge, Navy Capt. J. Kirk Waits, had scheduled pretrial hearings for Nov. 15-18 at Guantanamo's Camp Justice to work out, among other things, ongoing issues with the Iraqi's defense team, now made up of a blend of Pentagon-paid military and volunteer civilian lawyers. Typically at the war court, defense and prosecution lawyers get to question a new judge for bias and other potential conflicts of interest, a likely first step at the next hearing.

In May, lawyers for the 50-something former CIA captive announced that he wanted to be called by his real name, "Nashwan al Tamir," something Waits rejected.

Rubin's military biography says he was commissioned in August 1992 after completing Marine Corps Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Virginia, and graduated from the University of Missouri School of Law in 1993. In keeping with traditional military justice practice, he has served as alternately a military judge, staff attorney and defense attorney for service members.

He most recently presided at the court-martial guilty plea by a former commander of the Marine Corps' Wounded Warrior Regiment, where he sentenced the fellow colonel to 60 days confinement and a $10,000 fine for having an inappropriate relationship with a corporal and other acts unbecoming of an officer.

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