Dave Aronberg on observing Gitmo hearing - Florida Politics

Dave Aronberg on observing Gitmo hearing

Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg traveled to Guantanamo Bay last week to attend a hearing for accused terrorist Abdul al Hadi al Iraqi.

“It was fascinating because most people have not seen this, they’ve only heard about it; and if you expect to see prisoners in dark hoods in shackles, that’s far from it.”

Aronberg was selected as an observer by the National District Attorneys Association, of which he’s a board member. Although it was reported in some places Aronberg was in Cuba was to observe the trail, he clarifies it was only a hearing, and that al Hadi al Iraqi isn’t scheduled for trial for another THREE years.

“I don’t know why it has to take so long,” Aronberg said. “I think it could be expedited.”

Abdul al Hadi al Iraqi is an Iraqi accused of running Al Qaeda’s army in Afghanistan after the U.S. invasion in 2001. He was charged in 2014 with war crimes punishable by life in prison as the alleged commander of forces that killed U.S. and foreign allied troops in 2002-04 wartime Afghanistan.

Aronberg said his visit to Gitmo was far different than the perception most Americans may have about the prison facility.

“Back in the day there was Camp X-Ray. That’s where you saw the barbed wire and the hundreds of people who were herded like cattle into these old buildings and yeah, that was different. It’s changed dramatically.”

The Palm Beach State Attorney was re-elected without opposition to a second term earlier this year. The 45-year-old from Greenacres served eight years in the Florida Senate from 2002-2010, before being elected in 2012.

A centrist Democrat, Aronberg was very involved with the Florida Mainstream Democrats a decade ago. The group was formed to help get more Florida moderate Democrats elected. It no longer exists.

He said while he’s concerned about how poorly his party did in the recent election, it’s natural for Americans to go in a different direction after eight years of  being in control of the White House. And he thinks it’s healthy that there will be new leadership at the Florida Democratic Party.

“I think that change will be good for our party when it comes to strategy and candidate recruitment, but I don’t think you need to throw out the baby with the bathwater. I don’t think you need to overreact that this is the death knell of the Democratic party,” he surmised.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.
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