World News

Pentagon says Guantanamo prosecutor quits post

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military’s chief prosecutor for the Guantanamo war crimes trials has resigned, the Pentagon said on Friday.

Air Force Col. Moe Davis asked to be moved to another post after the Pentagon rejected his complaint that another official should not be supervising his work, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.

“Clearly, there was a disagreement with respect to roles and authorities that has now been cleared up,” Whitman said. “Colonel Moe Davis asked to be reassigned from his duties as the chief prosecutor.”

Reached by e-mail, Davis said his orders forbade him from commenting.

Whitman said Davis’ resignation would not delay the scheduled resumption of tribunals early next month.

“I don’t anticipate that this will affect in any way the preparation of cases to go before the military commissions,” he said.

The Bush administration’s efforts to put the terrorism suspects at its military prison at Guantanamo Bay on Cuba through some form of judicial process has been fraught with problems.

It was forced to rewrite the rules last year after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the first tribunal system illegal.

The trials stalled again in June when military judges dismissed charges against the only two prisoners who had then been charged.

A U.S. military court last month reinstated the charges, clearing the way for the tribunals to resume.

Davis had complained to the Defence Department that Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann, the legal adviser to the Convening Authority -- a body responsible for running the trials -- should not be supervising his work, Whitman said.

A team of military legal experts ordered by the Pentagon to look into the complaint found that Hartmann did have the authority to supervise the chief prosecutor’s work.

Davis asked to leave his post after receiving the team’s findings on Thursday, Whitman said.

There are currently some 330 detainees at Guantanamo, according to the Pentagon.

Prosecutors hoped to try up to 80 of them on war crimes charges but only one trial has been completed -- Australian former prisoner David Hicks pleaded guilty in March to providing material support for terrorism and was sentenced to nine months under a plea deal.

Human rights groups and many governments, including U.S. allies, have urged Washington to close the jail, arguing that holding captives for years without trial violated international legal norms.

The Bush administration has said that its goal is to close the site but that it is necessary for now to hold dangerous individuals, whom it would be difficult to detain in the United States for legal reasons.

Additional reporting by Jane Sutton in Miami