Guantánamo

9/11 judge: War court can’t order Guantánamo healthcare

U.S. Army military judge Col. James L. Pohl, shown in this July 7, 2005 file photo at Fort Hood, Texas, is the chief of the Guantánamo military commissions judiciary.
U.S. Army military judge Col. James L. Pohl, shown in this July 7, 2005 file photo at Fort Hood, Texas, is the chief of the Guantánamo military commissions judiciary. ASSOCIATED PRESS

A​ military judge has rejected a request for war court intervention in the healthcare of an alleged 9/11 plotter who, according to his lawyer, still suffers from wounds inflicted at a CIA “black site” where agents subjected him to rectal rehydration.

Army Col. James L. Pohl wrote in a two-page order released by the Pentagon Friday that the court “does not have the authority to address issues concerning medical care.” It was dated March 10.

In February, the attorney for Saudi captive Mustafa al Hawsawi asked the judge to intervene in the case, referring to a recently released portion of the Senate Intelligence Committee's “Torture Report,” and saying that the 46-year-old man had been rectally abused while in CIA custody — and that he continues to bleed now, at least eight years later.

“Some would call that sodomy,” said attorney Walter Ruiz, adding that “those acts caused longstanding chronic medical conditions that have yet to be resolved.”

Hawsawi is accused of helping the Sept. 11 hijackers with travel and money. He is awaiting a death-penalty trial with the alleged mastermind, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, and three others, all of whom were subjected to “enhanced interrogation techniques” before they got to Guantánamo in September 2006.

Hawsawi has sat on a pillow over years of pretrial hearings. The February hearing was the first time that Ruiz was permitted to explain it under a loosening of censorship at the court that lets lawyers talk about the released, redacted 524-page portion of the 6,200-page Senate report.

Guantánamo’s prison spokesmen say war-on-terror captives get the same level of medical care as U.S. service members.

Ruiz specifically cited a reference to an investigation of allegations that CIA agents conducted medically unnecessary rectal exams with excessive force on two detainees, one of them Hawsawi, who afterward suffered an anal fissure, rectal prolapse and hemorrhoids. 

Ruiz said that guards sometimes find blood in Hawsawi’s clothes. The lawyer asked the judge to order prison legal and medical staff to speak with him, as Hawsawi’s healthcare proxy, and to let him see Hawsawi’s secret medical records.

Prosecutors urged the Army judge to stay out of the issue. “No doctor should be treating with a lawyer looking over his shoulder,” said federal attorney Ed Ryan.

The Sept. 11 hearings are in recess until April 20.

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The Miami Herald guide to the Sept. 11 war crimes trial here.

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