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Adviser to Gitmo trials faces more criticism

/ Source: The Associated Press

A Pentagon official who oversees the Guantanamo war crimes tribunals faced new internal criticism Wednesday as a prison commander accused him of bullying subordinates and trying to rush forward with trials.

Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann, whose management of the tribunals prompted the chief prosecutor to resign last year, was "abusive, bullying, unprofessional" when demanding files on prisoners, said Army Brig. Gen. Gregory Zanetti, the second-in-command at the U.S. prison.

Zanetti testified that Hartmann, the legal adviser for the tribunals, pushed for the trials to start amid legal challenges filed by lawyers for the prisoners.

"The strategy seemed to be spray and pray," he said. "Charge everybody. Let's go. Speed, speed speed."

Zanetti's testimony came in a pretrial hearing for Mohammed Jawad, an Afghan accused of wounding two U.S. soldiers with a grenade in 2002. Jawad's lawyer is seeking to have the charges dismissed, arguing that Hartmann improperly interfered with the case.

A judge in the trial of another detainee, Salim Hamdan, previously disqualified Hartmann from participating in that case, saying he aligned himself too closely with prosecutors.

Hamdan was convicted last week and sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison, concluding the first Guantanamo war crimes trial.

The U.S. has said it plans to prosecute about 80 prisoners at Guantanamo and others are expected to file similar challenges against Hartmann.

At an April hearing at Guantanamo, former chief prosecutor Air Force Col. Morris Davis testified that Hartmann meddled in his office and pushed for certain cases to be pursued over others based on political considerations. Davis resigned in October.

Zanetti, a liaison between the detention center and the tribunals, said Hartmann wanted control of the entire process without regard for command structure, but the approach was not considered all bad because it produced results.

"We kind of respected it because the process hadn't been moving," Zanetti said.

Hartmann supervises the chief prosecutor at Guantanamo and has extensive powers over the tribunal system.

The legal adviser has said he believed he was doing his job properly. He was expected to testify Wednesday in a separate courtroom to address a challenge by lawyers for a Canadian detainee who have also accused him of "unlawful influence."