But after opening statements that did not detail the evidence, the judge, Richard J. Leon of Federal District Court here, closed the courtroom, saying the evidence was classified. The government says the six men whose cases are being heard were planning to go to Afghanistan to fight the United States and that one of them was a member of Al Qaeda.
“The discussion of these issues will have to take place in a closed courtroom outside the presence of the public and the detainees,” Judge Leon said. The hearing is expected to last a week.
If the men testify, that “will also have to be behind closed doors because of the sensitivity of whatever it is they might say,” he said.
In addition, the detainees’ lawyers have not been permitted to discuss the classified evidence with their clients, six Algerian former residents of Bosnia who have been held since 2002.
This is the judge who initially ruled (wrongly) that the defendants had no habeas rights; now he’s making a mockery of the hearings. Whichever way he rules, it’s bound to be appealed, and meanwhile a bunch of guys who may be bad guys but against whom the government has long since dropped its original charges will sit in a very unpleasant jail, quite possibly for longer than they would have been sentenced in the first place.
Maybe I’m naive, but I would have thought that under normal law, when the original charges were dropped, that would be the end of it. If investigators found new charges they could re-arrest them, but this idea of keeping people in jail until you find a charge that you think might stick at some trial to be held in the ever-more-indefinite future is really kinda weird.