MIAMI — A Pentagon spokesman says a Marine Corps general is no longer confined to quarters for contempt at the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The Pentagon suspended a sentence that found Brig. Gen. John Baker should be confined to quarters for 21 days and fined $1,000, pending a review by a Defense Department legal official, Air Force Maj. Ben Sakrisson said.
Baker was informed of the decision Friday while awaiting a ruling to a legal challenge filed in civilian federal court in Washington.
Baker is in charge of the defense teams for war crimes cases at Guantanamo. A military judge ruled he was in contempt of court for dismissing three defense lawyers without court permission in the case of a prisoner charged in the 2000 attack on the destroyer Cole.
Baker refused to testify or return lawyers to the case, attempting to tell the judge, Air Force Col. Vance Spath, that the war court’s attempt to try alleged terrorists who are not U.S. citizens had no jurisdiction over him, the Miami Herald originally reported.
Spath disagreed and issued the ruling against Baker on Nov. 1, shocking the general’s colleagues by having him led out of the courtroom by guards and confined immediately to his quarters inside a small trailer on the base.
Seventeen sailors were killed and 39 injured when a small, fiberglass boat piloted by two suicide bombers exploded near the hull of the Cole in October 2000. The ship was refueling at the Aden harbor in Yemen.
The three civilian attorneys, Rick Kammen, Rosa Eliades and Mary Spears, quit the case in October. Kammen had represented the defendant, Saudi Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, since 2008.
The trio withdrew because they believed the government was listening in on their legal meetings. Some information discussed in the meetings was classified so they could not explain it to Nashiri or the public.
In June, Baker told the attorneys he had “lost confidence” in the integrity of “all potential attorney-client meeting locations” at Guantanamo.
While Baker is no longer confined, “the Office of Military Commissions Convening Authority has reviewed the contempt proceedings against Brig. Gen. John G. Baker ... and determined that the findings of the military judge are correct in law and fact,” Sakrisson said in a statement released Tuesday evening.
The findings are being forwarded to “the appropriate authority overseeing Brig. Gen. Baker’s service as a Judge Advocate within the Department of the Navy, the DoD Standards of Conduct Office, and the DoD General Counsel’s Office, and the Staff Judge Advocate to the Commandant of the United States Marine Corps for an administrative ethics review,” Sakrisson said.
Sakrisson added that the convening authority ”is not requiring that Brig. Gen. Baker pay the original $1,000 fine or serve the remaining confinement term, which was initially 21 days.”
He also addressed the security concerns that led to the civilian attorneys to withdraw.
“The [convening authority] will also recommend to the Joint Detention Group at Guantanamo Bay that a ‘clean’ facility be designated or constructed which would provide continued assurances and confidence that attorney-client meeting spaces are not subject to monitoring, as the commission proceeds,” Sakrisson said.