updated 4/25/2006 6:32:17 PM ET 2006-04-25T22:32:17

An alleged al-Qaida militant facing a military trial chose Tuesday to boycott the proceedings, dismissing the legal process and saying his fate was in the hands of God.

Jabran Said bin al-Qahtani did not return to the courtroom after an hour-long recess. His lawyer, Army Lt. Col. Bryan Broyles, said only force would get him back before the military judge.

In a brief earlier session, al-Qahtani, a Saudi prisoner who was making his first appearance before the military tribunal at this U.S. military base, told the court he had no interest in participating in the proceedings.

“You judge me, and you sentence me the way you want, if this is God’s will,” he told the judge.

Al-Qahtani, who was arrested with senior al-Qaida lieutenant Abu Zubayda and other alleged militants on March 28, 2002, at a house in Faisalabad, Pakistan, is charged with conspiring to attack U.S. military and civilian targets. The Defense Department says that, among other things, he helped to prepare explosives for use against U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Broyles had said he planned to argue that conspiracy to attack U.S. troops is not a war crime. He also told reporters that he believed some evidence against his client was obtained through torture, but declined to provide details.

Defendant calls trial ‘nonsense’
It was clear as soon as al-Qahtani sat down that things would not go smoothly in the windowless courtroom with thick burgundy carpeting, leather-padded chairs and a varnished railing separating trial participants from spectators.

When O’Toole began to explain the legal process, al-Qahtani responded, “This is nonsense.”

The judge then explained the benefits of having a lawyer, but al-Qahtani was not interested.

“I would prefer to be ignorant of these matters,” he said, resting his head on his hands. “I don’t care.”

At another point, the prisoner told the judge that a lawyer couldn’t help him, saying the U.S. can “either kill me or imprison me or God will provide me with rescue, and then you will regret everything.”

Broyles asked the court to delay the proceedings so he could research what his ethical obligations were to a client who did not want his assistance. When the hearing resumed, al-Qahtani was absent. The defense attorney then asked to rescheduled the hearing, which the military judge, Navy Capt. Daniel O’Toole, denied.

Judge asked to recuse himself
Broyles asked O’Toole to recuse himself, arguing that he has favored the government’s side in another Guantanamo case and that he has a potential conflict of interest because his wife, a lawyer, has worked for the Navy.

O’Toole declined to remove himself. Broyles did not enter a plea for al-Qahtani during Tuesday’s hearing.

Al-Qahtani, who according to his lawyer is in his mid-20s and has a wife and two children, is one of 10 detainees at Guantanamo Bay who have been charged and are facing a military tribunal. He faces up to life in prison if convicted. There are about 490 prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention center.

The chief military prosecutor, Air Force Col. Morris Davis, said Monday the U.S. plans to charge about two dozen more detainees and will seek the death penalty in some cases.

Al-Qahtani is one of three prisoners with a scheduled hearing this week. The other two, Sufyian Barhoumi and Ghassan al-Sharbi, were arrested during the same March 28, 2002, raid in Pakistan.

The hearings are intended to deal with legal issues in preparation for the military trials, which are tentatively scheduled to start in late summer or early fall. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule in June on the legal validity of the tribunals.

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