Tuesday, August 2, 2005

Ressam judge decries U.S. tactics

[NEWS] Last week, Judge John Coughenour sentenced Ahmed Ressam, the man convicted of attempting to bomb LAX, to 22 years in prison. Judge Coughenour commented that the trial showed the the U.S. legal system can try terrorist -- contrary to those who argue for secret tribunals, prolonged detention, and so on. The Seattle Times: Ressam judge decries U.S. tactics

Judge Coughenour said:

I would like to convey the message that our system works. We did not need to use a secret military tribunal, or detain the defendant indefinitely as an enemy combatant, or deny him the right to counsel, or invoke any proceedings beyond those guaranteed by or contrary to the United States Constitution.

I would suggest that the message to the world from today's sentencing is that our courts have not abandoned our commitment to the ideals that set our nation apart. We can deal with the threats to our national security without denying the accused
fundamental constitutional protections.

Despite the fact that Mr. Ressam is not an American citizen and despite the fact that he entered this country intent upon killing American citizens, he received an effective, vigorous defense, and the opportunity to have his guilt or innocence determined by a jury of 12 ordinary citizens.

Most importantly, all of this occurred in the sunlight of a public trial. There were no secret proceedings, no indefinite detention, no denial of counsel.

The tragedy of September 11th shook our sense of security and made us realize that we, too, are vulnerable to acts of terrorism. Unfortunately, some believe that this threat renders our Constitution obsolete. This is a Constitution for which men and women have died and continue to die and which has made us a model among nations. If that view is allowed to prevail, the terrorists will have won.

It is my sworn duty, and as long as there is breath in my body I'll perform it, to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Transcript (on Seattle Times website). For a profile of Judge Coughenour, see Seattle Times: Maverick who speaks his mind.

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