MIAMI (Reuters) - The Air Force lawyer who quit as chief prosecutor for the Guantanamo war court five months ago because of what he called political interference has asked to leave the U.S. military, he said on Tuesday.
Col. Moe Davis said he submitted retirement papers last week, partly because of fallout from his public criticism of the Guantanamo court and partly because of family concerns. He does not expect the military to oppose his retirement.
“I imagine my last day in uniform will be some time in July,” Davis, a 25-year veteran who has worked as both a U.S. military prosecutor and defense lawyer, told Reuters in a telephone interview from the Washington area.
As chief prosecutor in the Guantanamo legal system for two years, Davis was a fierce advocate for the court created by the Bush administration to try suspected terrorists outside of regular U.S. military and civilian courts.
He resigned in October, alleging Pentagon officials had exerted political influence in an effort to rush through high-profile charges and approved the use of torture-tainted evidence.
Davis suddenly became a hero to the human rights groups that had long excoriated him. He also became a potential defense witness for prisoners he had charged as prosecutor.
“A year ago I was a villain of the left, just a puppet of the Bush administration, a neo-Nazi jerk. Now the people that hated me think I’m a hero. To the people that loved me then, I’m a villain overnight,” Davis told Reuters.
Davis, who once compared Guantanamo defendants to vampires cringing from the sunlight of justice, summed up his new status with one of the colorful metaphors that were his hallmark.
“I’ve always thought of myself as middle of the road. In the middle of the road, you get hit by traffic in both directions,” said Davis, who is now director of the Air Force Judiciary in Washington.
TESTIFYING FOR DEFENSE
Davis, 49, has agreed to testify for the defense in the pending trial at Guantanamo of one of Osama bin Laden’s bodyguards, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, whose case he himself prepared.
He has also been cited in Guantanamo court papers and by defense attorneys as saying he was pressured to file “sexy” cases and to rush through charges while the rules were still being written for the revised system Congress approved in 2006, after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down an earlier version of the war tribunals.
The military has since prevented him from testifying before Congress about the Guantanamo war court, and Davis said he expected an effort to stop him from testifying as a defense witness.
The Pentagon has said it plans to try as many as 80 of the 280 Guantanamo detainees. But more than six years after the United States began sending foreign captives to the U.S. naval base in Cuba, only 14 have been charged in the revised court system. Thirteen of those cases are still pending, including those against six prisoners who could be executed if convicted of charges of involvement in the September 11 attacks.
Davis said he is still convinced that those he charged are in fact guilty.
But he said they deserve fair trials that could only occur if the military is allowed to run the Guantanamo court without political influence, if there is a commitment not to use evidence obtained by the harsh interrogation technique known as waterboarding, which simulates drowning, or “undue coercion,” and if the trials are held openly without relying on secret evidence.
“You can have the most perfect trials in the history of the world but behind closed doors, in secret, nobody’s going to believe it was fair,” he said.
(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
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