December 18, 2013

Alleged 9/11 plotter ejected from Guantánamo court again

Defense lawyers seek an emergency hearing after judge ejects an alleged Sept. 11 plotter from the war court four times in two days, each time for being disruptive.

The military judge in the Sept. 11 case ejected captive Ramzi bin al Shibh from court twice again Wednesday, both times at the alleged 9/11 plotter’s request in a continuing protest over prison camp treatment.

“This is torture! You have to stop the sleep deprivation and the noises,” the 41-year-old Yemeni defendant shouted as guards led him from a morning pretrial hearing that focused on attorney-client access for former CIA prisoners.

The episode was repeated after a lunch recess during testimony from Army Col. John V. Bogdan, a Military Police officer who functions as prison camp warden. Defense lawyers in the 9/11 death-penalty case were questioning the colonel about attorney-client access problems, and Bin al Shibh interrupted.

“I'm going to have to leave,” Bin al Shibh told the judge, Army Col. James L. Pohl. “The guy next to you, he is a war criminal.”

Bin al Shibh has for months complained that guards make noises in his cell to disrupt his sleep. His lawyers have argued that his sleep deprivation hampers his ability to meaningfully participate in his defense in these death-penalty proceedings against five men accused of orchestrating the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

Prosecutors on the case deny the guards are doing anything to disrupt Bin al Shibh’s sleep. He’s housed at the Camp 7 prison for so-called high value detainees, a site so secret its location is classified.

Just a few minutes into Wednesday morning’s hearing, Bin al Shibh spoke out of turn and asked the judge, Pohl, to excuse him from the session. He complained that the problems were continuing.

“I have to leave,” he said, interrupting the judge. “I asked you to stop these vibrations.”

Wednesday afternoon, Bin al Shibh’s lawyer, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Bogucki, filed an emergency motion to address the allegation — and sought to let Bin al Shibh testify at the war court. Pohl gave case prosecutors the night to read the filing and respond in court Thursday morning.

If Bin al Shibh testifies, it’s unclear whether he would be allowed to do it in open court. As an ex-CIA prisoner, he spent years in the agency’s classified overseas prison network, being subjected to its secret Rendition, Detention and Interrogation program. In addition, Camp 7 is run by the top-secret Task Force Platinum and the military protects information about the lockup.

Bin al Shibh sat out most of Wednesday’s hearing in a holding cell equipped with a video feed of the proceedings, as he did Tuesday when he was also ejected twice for being disruptive.

At issue is Bin al Shibh‘s instance that he won’t acknowledge for the record his right to waive attendance at these pretrial hearings. So the judge has compelled his attendance in the war court only to have him removed as disruptive. Another alleged 9/11 conspirator, Ammar al Baluchi, voluntarily missed Wednesday’s session and was allowed to remain behind at the prison camps.

The other three alleged Sept. 11 plotters — Khalid Sheik Mohammed, Walid bin Attash and Mustafa al Hawsawi — sat quietly through Wednesday’s proceedings.

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