Tuesday, June 6, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

More Turmoil at Gitmo Terrorism Hearings

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (CN) - A defendant in the Sept. 11 terrorism trial called his prison warden a "war criminal" Wednesday, and the attorney for another defendant said the room where he met his client had a sign in it that referred to the Nuremberg trials.

Ramzi bin al-Shibh, the accused coordinator of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, has been thrown out of the military court four times this week for outbursts. He called the judge a war criminal on Tuesday, and repeated the insult to the military prosecutor on Wednesday.

Also Wednesday, David Nevin, attorney for alleged mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, told the war court that the sign in the interview room stated: "The kind treatment you receive here is not because you merit it but because anything less would be unbecoming of us."

Guantanamo's warden Col. John Bogdan, whom Nevin was questioning, confirmed that was true.

The sign is a paraphrase of a remark by Army Col. Burton Andrus, the commandant of the Nuremberg Prison that housed Nazi war criminals, according to Nevin's co-counsel.

Navy Cmdr. Kevin Bogucki, who represents bin al-Shibh, wrote in an email that Col. Andrus said: "The treatment you are getting accorded is not because you merit it but because anything less than humane treatment is unbecoming of the United States."

Bogucki said the sign was up for only a few days, then was removed.

"As you might imagine, it drew a lot of attention from the attorneys that saw it," Bogucki wrote. "I was one of the few to see it before it was taken down (by pure luck)."

The distinctions between the phrasings resonated as Col. Bogdan testified Wednesday.

Detainee attorneys cite a series of searches of inmate property searches and hard-line procedures implemented under Bogdan as a factor in the continuing hunger strike and the ensuing force-feeding controversy at the U.S. military prison in Cuba.

Bogdan defends the measures as necessary for the safety of guards.

On Wednesday, Bogdan colonel took the stand to address defense complaints about restrictions on attorney-client visitations in Camp 7, the Top Secret site where high-value detainees are held.

He confirmed that these take place in Echo 2, in a room of a hut divided in two.

Cheryl Bormann, a Chicago-based counsel for alleged co-conspirator Walid Bin Attash, said the room's furniture consisted of a plastic resin table, a couple of chairs and a metal eye to hook a chain attached to detainees' arms and/or legs.

The Top Secret camp holds 15 detainees, and has only enough guards with appropriate security clearances to accommodate six attorney-client visitations at a time, Bogdan said.

Bormann, who wears a black abaya for her client, said that Echo 2 was booked up when she wanted to arrange a meeting before this month's commission hearings.

Limited visitation hours and changing plane schedules to Guantanamo also prevented her from making an appointment near Thanksgiving, she said.

Prosecutor Ed Ryan asked the Col. Bogdan about the security arrangements for the Sept. 11 suspects.

Typically, only "very small numbers" of military police have Top Secret Secure Compartmented Information (TS-SCI) clearances, Bogdan said.

Referring to logistical constraints, Ryan asked: "Is that based on the reality of who these accused are and what they are alleged to have done?"

"Precisely," Bogdan said.

The five Sept. 11 suspects could face the death penalty if convicted of terrorism, mass murder and hijacking in connection with attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

In the early afternoon Wednesday, Bogdan's testimony was interrupted by bin al-Shibh, an alleged coordinator of the attacks.

Bin al-Shibh has been kicked out of court four times this week for outbursts in which he claimed that Camp 7 guards have been keeping him up at night with sounds and vibrations in his cell.

Shouting about "sleep deprivation," bin al-Shibh told the military judge, Col. James Pohl, "The guy next to you, he is a war criminal," referring to Bogdan.

The government denies bin al-Shibh's allegations; none of his co-defendants have complained of such sounds.

A defense psychiatrist insists that al-Shibh is not delusional.

Cmdr. Bogucki filed a motion to investigate the matter, which may be addressed later this week.

James Connell, an attorney for Ammar al-Baluchi, rejected the Nuremberg parallel at a press conference before this week's proceedings.

"It is certainly not a modern-day Nuremberg in the sense of a military solution to an ongoing military occupation," Connell said, adding that the Nuremberg tribunals brought Nazi war criminals to justice in an occupied country with no functioning civil courts.

"Nuremberg was a specific military solution to a specific military problem," Connell said. "That's no longer what we have at Guantanamo. I'll tell you what we have here is a military solution to a political problem."

The United States considers the 45-square-mile military base at Guantanamo U.S. territory, under a 1903 treaty.

Meanwhile in Washington the Department of Defense announced the repatriation to Sudan on Wednesday of two other Guantanamo detainees.

Noor Uthman Muhammed was sent to Sudan on Dec. 3 after completing the unsuspended portion of a 14-year sentence.

In accepting Muhammed's guilty plea to violations of the Military Commissions Act of 2009 at a military commission on Feb. 18, 2011, prosecutors agreed to suspend all confinement in excess of 34 months.

Prosecutors said they released Ibrahim Othman Ibrahim Idris from Guantanamo in accordance with an Oct. 4 court order in Washington.

Idris has been designated for transfer since 2009 by unanimous consent among all six departments and agencies on the Guantanamo Review Task Force, the government said in a statement.

There are 158 detainees remaining at Guantanamo Bay.

Categories: Uncategorized

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.