Guantánamo

9/11 defendant claims rough treatment by Guantánamo guards; war court sidesteps issue

Ths Guantánamo prison photo of Saudi Mustafa al Hawsawi, accused of helping the 
9/11 hijackers with funds and travel, turned up on Middle Eastern websites. He is seen sitting on a prayer rug and posing for the International Committee of the Red Cross in prison-approved images taken for family members.
Ths Guantánamo prison photo of Saudi Mustafa al Hawsawi, accused of helping the 9/11 hijackers with funds and travel, turned up on Middle Eastern websites. He is seen sitting on a prayer rug and posing for the International Committee of the Red Cross in prison-approved images taken for family members.

The attorney for an accused 9/11 plotter lost a bid Monday to hold an emergency war court hearing seeking urgent medical care following an episode of alleged brutal treatment at the prison’s clandestine lockup for former CIA prisoners.

The judge, Army Col. James L. Pohl, denied the request a day after canceling a planned hearing on a conflict-of-interest question, meaning the Pentagon mounted a $150,000 or more airlift of attorneys, translators, observers and other staff to this remote base for Sept. 11 case hearings that didn’t happen. The next 9/11 hearing is docketed for Feb. 9.

About eight guards threw Mustafa al Hawsawi, 46, to the ground while he was shackled on Dec. 7, and he needs immediate medical attention, according to lawyer Walter Ruiz, a demobilized Navy commander who represents the Saudi captive. Hawsawi has blood in his urine and needs tests to rule out cancer, Ruiz added.

The prison spokesman, Navy Capt. Tom Gresback, declined to comment because the issue was in litigation. He said Guantánamo captives “receive the same level of medical care provided to service members here.”

The episode reportedly happened two days before the release of the so-called Senate Torture Report that showed the CIA agents may have waterboarded Hawsawi and subjected him to unauthorized brutal interrogations in secret overseas prisons, which “rectally infused” its captives.

Hawsawi stands not quite 5 feet, 5 inches and weighs 117 pounds, according to Ruiz, who claims his clientwas shackled when eight guards pounced on him and threw him to the ground in an episode of mixed signals over whether Hawsawi was going to a recreation site or back into his cell.

Ruiz said he wrote both the detention commander, Navy Rear Adm. Kyle Cozad, and the prison staff attorney seeking an investigation and got no answer. Some of the guards were new, according to Ruiz, and did not capture the episode on videotape.

It’s logistically complex to arrange a 9/11 case hearing week.

The Pentagon airlifts the judge and his staff; court workers; five defense teams of lawyers, paralegals, security officers and translators. For this week’s hearing, it also brought in two sets of prosecutors, a special Justice Department attorney tasked to handle an FBI snooping issue on the docket as well as some of the Sept. 11 case prosecutors.

The Pentagon charters typically cost $150,000 to $170,000 round trip, according to the military, less than using Air Force planes. But the military airlifted so many people down to Guantánamo for this week’s non-hearing that it chartered a Boeing 757 airliner from Delta to bring everyone home Wednesday, possibly increasing the price tag.

In the Hawsawi case, his attorney wants the judge to order prison medical staff to test Hawsawi, treat him, release his medical records and meet with his lawyers. Ruiz also wants the court to order the government to release to Hawsawi’s lawyers and prison doctor “all medical records to date.”

Because he filed it Monday, the prosecution had yet to respond.

The Senate Torture Report says Hawsawi suffered a torn and prolapsed anus as well as chronic hemorrhoids at a secret CIA prison, prompting an internal investigation into “excessive force” rectal exams whose results were not specified. He has consistently come to pretrial hearings in his death-penalty case with a pillow to sit on and sometimes wears a neck brace.

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