Guantánamo

Will the Obama-era war court prosecutor stay on? No word yet.

Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, chief war crimes prosecutor, briefs reporters on July 17, 2016.
Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, chief war crimes prosecutor, briefs reporters on July 17, 2016. crosenberg@miamiherald.com

There’s still no official word on whether the Pentagon will extend the tour of duty of the chief war crimes prosecutor, who is set to retire next month.

Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, who has had the job for six years, is both the chief overseer of war court cases and a case prosecutor in the Sept. 11 and USS Cole trials. He has said that he would extend his service, if asked to do so. One-star generals are time-limited in service and Martins has already received one extension past his retirement date.

But Martins has consistently declined to say whether his extension has gone through, and for how long. Friday, a spokesman for the war court suggested the question was still unsettled.

RELATED: Due to retire, Guantánamo prosecutor gets 3 more years on job

“General Martins is the chief prosecutor for the military commissions,” said Air Force Maj. Ben Sakrisson. “The process, and the pursuit of justice under law, will continue regardless of whether he is ultimately continued in that capacity at the end of his current tenure, or if another individual transitions into the position.”

BGen Baker
Marine Brig. Gen. John Baker is the chief defense counsel for military commissions. Unlike the chief prosecutor, he cannot assign himself to individual cases. Instead, he supervises the defense teams and

The uncertainty comes as the prosecution office appears poised to challenge the legitimacy of a decision by Martins’ counterpart, Marine Brig. Gen. John Baker, to permit three civilian attorneys to quit the USS Cole case defense team over an ethical issue.

Prosecutors notified defense attorneys Friday evening by email that they are preparing to argue that only the USS Cole case judge, Air Force Col. Vance Spath, can release veteran death-penalty defender Rick Kammen and two other civilians from the case.

RELATED: USS Cole death-penalty case in limbo after key defense lawyer quits

Martins is already at Guantánamo for next week’s pretrial hearings in the Sept. 11 conspiracy case. USS Cole team lawyers and the judge are due at the remote U.S. Navy base in Cuba on Oct. 29.

Martins, 57, is a West Point and Harvard Law School graduate. He was appointed to the job in July 2011 when former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter was Deputy Defense Secretary. He has lectured and traveled widely in his campaign to argue the war court created by the Bush administration after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and then reformed by the Obama administration, is a legitimate forum for terror and war crimes cases against non-citizens.

Carol Rosenberg: 305-376-3179, @carolrosenberg

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