Defense Counsel in Gitmo Trial Wears Hijab To Court And Asks For Women To Cover Up In Deference To Muslim Defendants

Cheryl Bormann, counsel for defendant Walid bin Attash, has created a stir over wearing a hijab to the military tribunal and asking other women to cover up out of respect of the Muslim sensibilities for the defendants. I have received a fair number of calls on this from reporters and lawyers due to my past representation of Muslims in national security cases. I believe the display was a professional and tactical mistake and I would not want someone on my team to try to make such an extreme accommodation to a client.


Bormann requested a court order for other women to follow her example, at least in dressing modestly, so that the defendants do not have to avert their eyes “for fear of committing a sin under their faith.” She insisted that her hijab was necessary since, “[w]hen you’re on trial for your life, you need to be focused.”

First, I should acknowledge that I have refused to take cases in military tribunals and I do not believe that lawyers should legitimate these proceedings. However, I recognize that this is a personal choice and many lawyers in good faith have chosen to take these cases and make the best of a bad situation. I will also note that reporters often adopt the garb of a country to facilitate an interview as do, on occasion, diplomats and politicians.

However, regardless of the forum, I do not believe an attorney should accommodate a client’s beliefs to this extent. It is important for clients to understand the relationship with an attorney is a strictly professional one. Moreover, they appear in a court that reflects the values of a pluralistic society. While you are allowed to personally follow any set of moral beliefs and practices, you cannot force others to adhere to those values. Just as a “jury of your peers” does not guarantee you twelve hardcore militants, a fair trial does not mean a court that meets your aesthetic or religious tastes.

I believe it is a serious mistake to blur that line with a client. A client can always seek to have a new lawyer. However, if a client were to insist on my dropping a young female associate from the team, I would file for my own representation to end with the associate’s representation.

I do not believe that distraction concern is a serious one. If a defendant is not focused by the potential of his execution, a longer skirt is not only to succeed. Death penalties tend to concentrate the mind of the most distracted defendant. If not, I doubt the longer skirt will overcome the problem. Zacarias Moussaoui was obsessed and filled with hatred toward Judge Brinkema regardless of her wearing a judicial robe. He was a hate-filled and unbalanced fanatic who hated women, Jews, and most everyone. In this case, the attorney should have insisted on appearing in her normal professional garb. Over the months of preparation, the clients would have to be get to speaking to her and other women dressed in a modern fashion.

Just as we would not ask to remove minorities for a racist client, we should not accommodate beliefs that are viewed as sexist by the majority of our society. The fact that they are religious based does not alter the situation.

I also believe that this public display undermines the credibility of counsel. The basis for the display and the motion is highly questionable, particularly in a proceeding where the female attorneys are already in uniform. That leaves reporters and observers who should not have to find the lowest common denominator with a defendant to maintain “focus.”

It is not clear why counsel would want the focus of the trial to begin on such a stylistic or religious point. There are ample reasons to object to these tribunals as little more than Kangaroo courts. However, Bormann hit on the one element that is missing from the tribunal that is not a shortcoming. While I would not describe the tribunal as a true court of law akin to an Article III federal court, it is not a Sharia court. I would prefer the opening fights to be over the unfair procedural and evidentiary rules rather than counsel’s dress code.

Source: MSN

82 thoughts on “Defense Counsel in Gitmo Trial Wears Hijab To Court And Asks For Women To Cover Up In Deference To Muslim Defendants”

  1. Hi Chuck,

    Here is some of what I am on….

    You say “He brought it on completely and totally by himself.”
    I suggest that you “withhold” for a bit longer while you do some research.

    Your premise is that all detained and tortured in secret CIA prisons, proxy prisons and Gitmo are dangerous terrorists. This is the message that you accept from the Department Of Fear.

    Please research the backgrounds of the detainees.
    Adnan Latif is one example – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adnan_Farhan_Abd_Al_Latif

    There may well be a number of dangerous international terrorists in Gitmo, but others were completely innocent or were merely footsoldiers in a local battle against a force that had invaded their land.
    Much ‘evidence’ has been obtained under torture. Torture me for a some time and I might well tell you whatever it is that I think you want to hear. I would be as crerative as needed. I would even implicate you, whoever you are.

  2. “We pluck a man from a culture in which it is unthinkable that he should be in a room with uncovered females. We put him in such a situation. He didn’t volunteer to enter the room.”

    Unbelievable!!! I can’t withhold any longer and would like some of what you are on. “We put him in such a situation.” We had nothing to do with his being in his present “situation.” He brought it on completely and totally by himself.

    Further, your concentration on his supposed “rights” is sorely misguided. His Islamic rights were abrogated when he made his choices. He chose this country to effect his atrocity, he has to live with our jurisprudence. Finally, what about the rights of the 3000+ whose lives he affected.

    I would suggest you do some serious homework about Islam…. Start with Lewis, Huntington and Caldwell. When completed, let me know and I’ll send you more. Your comments are an embarrassment

  3. OT OT
    From one persecuted group to another, looking for a holocaust book I came upon another which relates to my youth. Some may remember the only jewish person I knew was the high school homecoming queen. True, but apparently they were there for
    many centuries. Here’s the book, if some would like to see more. Thanks to Google and Amazon searchs.
    Maybe this will cast some light on a more dominant, in terms of countries, but equally suppressed group of “strangers and enemies to Christianity”, namely the muslims.
    http://www.amazon.com/Down-Home-Jewish-North-Carolina/dp/0807833754/ref=sr_1_14?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1336599365&sr=1-14#reader_0807833754

  4. The revised “parks and national events including the presence of SS men” has WIDE implications, which occurred after my noting the possibílity of gathering at the WH above. Can we not picket with signs the President, the former Presidents, can we not cast symbolic baby shoes at Beorge? All that hidden in a “national parks” law.

    Who says they cna’t do everything to suppress or surveil us. They will, if they are not stopped. Counter speculations.???

  5. Zarathrusta, I kiss them each day for their humanizing óf the Swedish culture. And not from the ME are muslims. So if England keeps the worst ones I’m happy.

    ANON, sling, AY and Malisha: Thank you, BUT…

    IT IS EASY TO CRITICIZE WHAT IS HAPPENING IN G-BAY, BUT WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT THE TORTURERS HERE? THERE I GO AGAIN ASKING FOR SOLUTIONS. SHALL WE GATHER OUTSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE. WE CAN SEE WHAT HOSPITALITY THEY OFFER AT THE FEMA CAMPS.

  6. Guantanamo is itself a denial of all that Americans have fought for and died for to “save democracy” anywhere in the world. If we can insist that countries across (and in) oceans must behave well or we will invade them to teach them better behavior, while we permit this undeniable, gross, violent disgrace to drag on giving evidence to our lack of commitment to international values and common decency, we are eviscerating our own alleged ideals in a way that we can never recover from. To even speak of dignity or rightness in the context of Guantanamo is a violation of honesty.

  7. “It’s extremely difficult to listen seriously to anyone talk about “local rules of dignity”, when ‘local’ is Guantanamo.”

    It’s extremely difficult to take anyone seriously who writes, ““Then you put them in a room with uncovered females. Short of executing them, there is nothing more you can do to them.””

    Or Kirkier me:

    On the contrary, sir. I take gitmo very seriously. It is YOU I take lightly.

  8. It’s extremely difficult to listen seriously to anyone talk about “local rules of dignity”, when ‘local’ is Guantanamo.

    Guantanamo is a byword for gross indignity. It is a place of torture. It is a medieval place run by primitives who have lost any trace of humanity they ever had.
    It is a very extreme example of how people can fool themselves into thinking that something is ‘right’ because some soulless functionaries have crafted laws to justify unspeakable actions.

  9. “Muslims made Chuck Norris cry.”

    Odd. It seemed to be you and Cheryl Bormann doing the crying for the Muslims.

    The rest of us respected them as rational humans, capable enough to be able to treat women and other humans with the local rules of dignity, regardless of what land they were from.

  10. Seamus,

    Thank you for the information related to the defense counsel…… The military trial is more of a dog and pony show….. Due process mean what’s favorable to the prosecution…..

  11. Zarathustra: “Never, ever, cow-tow to Muslim 6th century thinking…. These people are trying to take Humanity back to the Stone Ages…………..”

    Damm right on there Zarathustra.
    Give into the likes of them and Humanity will end up doing things torturing people banged up forever in dungeons, invading countries and slaughtering hundreds of thousands, etc.
    Thank goodness the USA is there to show Humanity that there is a better way.

    Humanity should take its lead from the Land of the Free (where the prisons hold 25% of the entire world’s population of prisoners and autistic children are groped by uniformed people in airports)

  12. Zarathrusta,

    Did you see Life of Brian? If not, recommend it.
    My point is that while you are technically correct in that the muslim way dates to 632CE, the practices date to pre-Christian times. Of course, Mohammad, in response to being scorned by the jewish tribes in Medina for his imitations of jewish practices, deciden then to go them several
    steps worse. And thus he gave us this in detail regulatiion of everything in your muslim life. We have it easy don’t we, in comparison? Some say the Bible provides ample proof of detailed regulation, etc.

    Be that as it may, the muslims are indeed the prime example of today, and deserve diaapprobation.
    The choice of what is yours, it just made me wonder if you were going to start burning Korans. Smile of irony.

    All this instead of; “What you say? It is not SO new that there are religions which prescribe crucifying of all disbelievers who depart a millimenter into blasphemy, etc,. Muslims are just the latest uttering of such crap.”

    1. BEWARE….. watch what’s happening in Europe., idealist707. Several Countries there are about to loose what they’ve been for centuries, and be displaced within their own borders, with the influx of Muslim Immigrants. We can not give them an inch….. for they want to throw us out of our own homes……….do away with Democracy, and force the World to live under sharia law….

  13. Are their all-inclusives trips from Miani, can I reserve a a chair, how’re the accomodations and food, can I bring my dog, can my attorney kibbitz, will the President be leading the ceremony under threat of instant execution of dissenting participants, including defense attorneys, and
    do we get to watch the executions, are they serving popcorn and coke, and do I get my money back if he gets freed?
    Sincerely yours,
    A dedicated Constitution hugger since many years.
    Chairman of Circuses R USA

  14. I agree with Zarathustra in many ways. Up the Court.

    Turn off your cell phone ringers, BUT RECORD AND BROADCAST ALL COURT PROCEEDINGS.

    Up the courts. Up the judges.

  15. Never, ever, cow-tow to Muslim 6th century thinking…. These people are trying to take Humanity back to the Stone Ages…………..

  16. The HELL with that….. Women, expose yourselves in court as best you can…. Muslim men who see naked flesh of women they aren’t married to, are required to kill themselves…………..

Comments are closed.