The prosecution of an Air Force translator for attempted espionage suffered
repeated blows yesterday from a defense witness who testified that evidence
in the case was mishandled and that a prosecutor ordered her not to tell
lawyers about inaccurate testimony at an earlier session.
The testimony came at what a military judge said was a final hearing in
advance of Airman Ahmad Al Halabi's court-martial on various charges,
including claims that he smuggled classified documents out of Guantanamo
Bay to give them to enemies of America.
The bulk of the hearing centered on a motion by the airman's lawyers to
have the charges against him dismissed on account of the alleged misconduct.
The star witness for Airman Al Halabi was a linguist who worked closely
with investigators as they crafted the case last fall. The linguist, Suzan
Sultan, was an Air Force staff sergeant who left the service last December
after a six-year tour.
Ms. Sultan, 26, testified she was present when agents on the case opened a
box Airman Al Halabi apparently mailed to himself before leaving
Guantanamo. She said the agents did not use gloves the first time they
opened the box and removed some of its contents. "Nobody was wearing
gloves," Ms. Sultan said.
Ms. Sultan said the investigators later repacked the box, put on gloves,
and photographed snorkeling gear. The linguist said some of the agents were
drinking beer as they handled and cataloged the items.
"In my opinion, it didn't seem professional," she said..