GUANTANAMO BAY (Cuba) (AFP) – Lawyers for Guantanamo Bay detainees accused of the 9/11 attacks said their defendants’ rights were violated because they are prevented from open discussion of alleged mistreatment in secret prisons.
Speaking at a hearing in Guantanamo as the five detainees listened, lawyers for the men asked for the death penalty to be eliminated as a possible sentence, in light of alleged torture the inmates had undergone while being held by the United States, before their 2006 transfer to Guantanamo.
Detainees could not file complaints under the U.N. Convention against Torture, their lawyers said, because their treatment in U.S. detention was a classified matter.
“You have the power to dismiss the death penalty or dismiss these charges because of the obstacles we face in this case,” said Walter Ruiz, a lawyer for detainee Mustafa al-Hawsawi.
The U.N. Convention against Torture “gives certain rights” to the accused, Ruiz explained.
But “those rights do not exist, certainly not in front of this commission,” he argued.
The self-proclaimed mastermind of the attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, “was subjected to waterboarding for 183 sessions,” began lawyer Jason Wright, who represents the Pakistani defendants.
But Wright was immediately interrupted by Judge James Pohl, who said certain aspects of the prisoners’ treatment will be dealt with only in closed-door sessions, because they involve classified information.
The order prompted an angry retort from lawyer Cheryl Bormann, who said the defense team was consistently coming up against “a brick wall because of the classification issue.”
“You can’t gag somebody about talking about torture and then want to kill them,” she argued.
The accused face the death penalty if convicted of plotting the attacks on New York and Washington 12 years ago, which left nearly 3,000 people dead.
One after another, the lawyers said a court ruling protecting the secrecy of their detention in secret CIA prisons “violated the Convention against Torture.”
But prosecutor Clay Trivett argued that the case was about “the summary execution of 2,976 people,” not torture.
If the defendants felt they were “mistreated in U.S. custody” they could file a complaint in federal court, he said.