SCOTUSblog brings us news of action on a writ petition filed by CDR Suzanne Lachelier and LCDR Richard Federico on behalf of their client, Ramzi bin al Shibh. The government has been ordered to file a response; the timetable set up by the appeals court suggests that the petition will be heard very soon.
In fairly harsh language, the petition asserts that cases brought under the Military Commissions Act of 2006 “were never intended to do justice. Instead, what the government has sought, and to date received, is not a legitimate judicial proceeding but a political show trial.”
The petition focuses in large part on the government’s handling of mental health issues that purportedly call into question bin al Shibh’s fitness to stand trial. According to the petition, the accused was diagnosed by a sanity board comprised of military psychiatrists as suffering from a delusional disorder that “has the potential to impair his ability to conduct or cooperate intelligently in his defense.” The Convening Authority, the petition states, repeatedly denied defense requests for an expert; when the military judge finally ordered a defense psychologist be appointed, it was with the proviso that the psychologist not be permitted to meet with bin al Shibh or testify at the competency hearing.
Petitioner’s counsel allege that it is “inconceivable that American citizens accused of capital or other serious crimes” would be treated in the same manner. For this reason among others, they argue, the MCA violates the Due Process Clause’s principle of equal protection, both as written and as applied in bin al Shibh’s case. They ask that all proceedings before the military commissions be halted. The full petition can be found online here: [PDF].
In a one-page order issued Friday, the Court of Appeals for the D.C Circuit ordered the government to respond to the petition by noon Tuesday, September 15, 2009. Bin al Shibh’s reply brief is due forty-eight hours later.