9/11 judge asks if captive will be fit for court after rectal repair surgery

Guantánamo Navy base hospital on Oct. 13, 2016.
Guantánamo Navy base hospital on Oct. 13, 2016.

The Sept. 11 trial judge is asking whether an accused 9/11 plotter will be fit for a pretrial hearing next month following reconstructive surgery for decade-old damage from the captive’s “sodomy” in CIA custody.

Mustafa al Hawsawi, 48, “is still having a lot of pain. Bowel movements are still very painful,” said defense attorney Walter Ruiz, a Navy Reserve commander. Pain following the Oct. 14 reconstruction surgery has been “excruciating,” Ruiz said, quoting messages he got from the captive describing bouts of vomiting, nausea and sleep problems.

Last week Hawsawi’s lawyers asked the trial judge, Army Col. James L. Pohl, to postpone the Dec. 5-9 hearing because the Saudi is still suffering pain and is medicated.

Pohl gave prosecutors until Wednesday to explain why the prison medical staff would not furnish Hawsawi’s lawyers with information on the progress of his recovery, according to three attorneys who have seen the order. He also set Wednesday as a deadline to notify both the judge and defense attorneys “whether he will be expected to be on any medication in the December hearing as well as any impact,” said Ruiz.

Hawsawi, alleged mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and three other accused 9/11 plotters are due back at the war court Dec. 5 for pretrial hearings in the death-penalty case that alleges they orchestrated the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people. After that, the men can voluntarily waive attendance.

But Hawsawi’s lawyers have not seen their client since before he underwent rectal repair surgery hours after Pohl recessed the October hearings. The captive has notified them in writing that he is still recuperating, taking strong painkillers and finds it too painful to meet them in a prison compound used for attorney-client conferences.

The detention center spokesman, Navy Capt. John Filostrat, declined to comment on claims that a captive who underwent a colo-rectal procedure last month is still in excruciating pain, on painkillers at the detention center’s clandestine Camp 7 and has not fully recovered. “It’s our policy not to discuss the medical condition of individual detainees,” he said, by email.

An unclassified portion of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation of the CIA’s Black Site program showed allegations that Hawsawi was subjected to rectal exams with “excessive force” before his 2006 transfer to Guantánamo and that at one point he had a “medical emergency” that the agency considered having treated in a foreign hospital.

Hawsawi was captured in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, in March 2003 with Mohammed and was held by the CIA until his delivery to Guantánamo in September 2006. He is alleged to have helped the hijackers with money, Western clothing, travelers’ checks and credit cards.

Hawsawi’s lawyers had been litigating over conditions at the remote prison and, sought medical intervention to treat a rectal prolapse that has caused Hawsawi to bleed for more than a decade.

He has sat gingerly on a pillow at the war court since his first appearance in 2008. But the reason was not publicly known until release of a portion of the so-called Senate Torture Report on the CIA program in December 2014, which described agents using quasi-medical techniques called “rectal rehydration” and “rectal re-feeding.”


Carol Rosenberg: 305-376-3179, @carolrosenberg

Additional Reading

▪ The Miami Herald’s Sept. 11 trial guide, here.

▪ Earlier report on the captive’s condition, here.

▪ About the captive, his leaked 2006 prison profile, here.