Judge Orders Competency Hearing for 9/11 Suspect
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (CN) - Repeated outbursts from an alleged Sept. 11, 2001, plotter ground proceedings to a halt Thursday as a military judge ordered a test of the suspect's mental competency to stand trial.
Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who is believed to be a coordinator in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, got ejected from court four times in the past two days after loudly complaining that noises and vibrations in his Camp 7 keep him awake before commission hearings.
Bin al-Shibh alleges that he is being subjected to "sleep deprivation" and has insulted both the judge and warden as a "war criminal."
Prosecutors deny that there have been any sounds in the detainee's cell.
Defense attorney Navy Cmdr. Kevin Bogucki moved Wednesday to investigate the matter.
During a brief hearing on Thursday morning, the presiding military judge, Col. James Pohl, granted a prosecution motion to test bin al-Shibh's competency to stand trial and announced that this would end the open part of the proceedings.
Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, a Department of Defense spokesman, explained that Military Commissions Rule 706 states: "if it appears to ... trial counsel ... that there is reason to believe that the accused ... lacks capacity to stand trial, that fact and the basis of the belief or observation shall be transmitted through appropriate channels to the authority authorized to order an inquiry into the mental condition of the accused."
"The government determined last night, based on the totality of the circumstances, that it 'appears ... that there is reason to believe' accused bin al-Shibh lacks capacity," Breasseale said. "Note that this is different from saying we believe he actually lacks capacity; rather, we acknowledge that there is a question."
Bin al-Shibh has disrupted proceedings throughout the pretrial process, complaining of noises and, according to one New York Daily News report, allegedly withheld olives.
An Army psychiatrist at Camp 7 insists that bin al-Shibh is not delusional - and rejected the particular diagnosis of "Delusional Disorder - Persecutory Type."
"Feelings of persecution are consistent with being detained as an enemy combatant and being prosecuted for war crimes," according to a stipulation of the testimony the psychiatrist intended to give.
Cmdr. Bogucki, his military attorney, described the government's motion as a bid to keep his client from testifying about the noises.
"The government is walking a very fine line," he said. "They want the 706 both to determine that Mr. Bin al-Shibh is competent to stand trial, but also that everything that he was complaining about was just a delusion."
Filed late on Wednesday, the motion has not yet been made public.
"These are allegations that need to be investigated," he said.
The military commissions of the Sept. 11 suspects will resume in February.