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CCR Attorneys Say Client Unprosecutable, Cannot Participate in Own Defense Because of Torture, and Should Be Transferred to Saudi Arabia
May 20, 2008, New York – Newly declassified notes from Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) attorney Gitanjali Gutierrez’s meetings with her client, Mohammed al Qahtani, earlier this month reveal that he attempted suicide in early April after he learned death penalty charges were referred against him by the government to the Military Commissions at Guantanamo. Mr. al Qahtani cut himself a series of times with escalating severity. His third cut resulted in a deep wound, profuse bleeding and hospitalization.
Mr. al Qahtani told his attorney, “I cannot accept this injustice. If I have to stay in this jail I want to put an end to this suffering.”
Neither his lawyers nor his family were notified of his attempted suicide or his hospitalization following the attempt at taking his life.
When Ms. Gutierrez met with her client the week of April 28, 2008, she noticed the scars immediately: “I was shocked because, except for a period during his torture in 2002, Mohammed has not been suicidal or self-injurious at Guantanamo.”
Ms. Gutierrez continued, “He felt the Saudi government has thoroughly abandoned him and as if he is surrounded by people – the U.S. military – who want to kill him. He has lost all hope. Although the charges have been dismissed for now, I'm not sure how he will survive having the threat of new charges hanging over his head.”
In fact, Mr. al Qahtani told her, “I am feeling great frustration and hopelessness. If this situation continues, I will find a way to take care of myself and end this suffering.”
Military Commission charges against Mr. al Qahtani were dismissed earlier this month. He was initially named as one of six defendants in a proposed 9/11 conspiracy charge for which the government was seeking the death penalty. After dismissing Mohammed from the final charges sent to the military tribunal, the government announced that it reserved the right to charge him again. Ms. Gutierrez will travel to Guantanamo to meet with her client this week to discuss his current legal situation.
Mr. al Qahtani, who has been at Guantánamo for almost six years, was subject to the ‘First Special Interrogation Plan,’ which consisted of a regime of ‘aggressive interrogation methods’ that constitute torture personally approved by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. These techniques were revealed in a leaked government interrogation log.
CCR attorneys maintain the Mr. al Qahtani is incapable of engaging in his own defense as a result of what was done to him.
Shayana Kadidal, Managing Attorney of CCR’s Guantanamo project said, “Although the U.S. continues to threaten to bring charges against our client before these sham Commissions, their evidence and every statement he has ever made was extracted through torture or threat of torture. Because he is basically unprosecutable and incapable of participating in his own defense, he’s at serious risk of indefinite detention without end and has made clear that that is not a situation he can survive.”
Mr. al Qahtani’s attorneys contend that he should be returned to the custody of the Saudi government, where there is a system in place to maintain custody of former Guantanamo detainees who present a danger, as well as a strong rehabilitation program supervising those that are released.
Ms. Gutierrez spoke with her client’s family as soon as her classified notes were cleared and reports that it was devastating for them to hear that though the charges have been dismissed, it may only be temporary and that the U.S. is still threatening to re-charge him. They were shocked to learn that he is suicidal.
NEW OIG REPORT RELEASED TODAY
The Justice Department’s Inspector General interviewed Mohammed al Qahtani at Guantanamo in February 2007 with his attorney, Gitanjali Gutierrez present. A significant number of the FBI agents’ allegations of detainee abuse investigated in the report released today revolved around Mr. al Qahtani’s interrogations.
Said Ms. Gutierrez, “His may be the most heavily documented abuse and torture at Guantanamo. The OIG’s report confirms, yet again, that multiple agencies were aware of Mr. al Qahtani’s unlawful interrogations. It is deeply disappointing that the FBI was aware of and investigating detainee abuse that occurred in the past at the exact same time new FBI “clean team” interrogation units were complicit in the military’s effort to cover up these violations by re-interviewing detainees abused in prior interrogations. The hypocrisy is flagrant.”
The torture techniques approved by Donald Rumsfeld for use on Mr. al Qahtani include:
• Severe sleep deprivation combined with 20-hour interrogations for months at a time
• Threats of rendition to other countries that torture
• Explicit threats made against his family, including female members of his family
• Strip searches, body searches and forced nudity, at times in the presence of female personnel
• Sexual humiliation
• Humiliation by forcing him to bark like a dog, dance with a mask on his face, and pick up piles of trash with his hands cuffed while he was called “a pig”
• Denial of the right to practice his religion, including prohibiting him from praying for prolonged times and during Ramadan
• Threats to desecrate the Koran in front of him
• Attacks by dogs
• Forcible administration of frequent IVs by medical personnel during interrogation
• Being placed in acute stress positions for hours at a time
• Being placed in tight restraints repeatedly for many months or days and nights
• Exposure to low temperatures for extended periods of time
• Exposure to loud music for prolonged times
• At least 160 days of severe isolation
CCR has been representing Mohammed al Qahtani since 2005 and has led the legal battle over Guantanamo for the last six years – sending the first ever habeas attorney to the base and sending the first attorney to meet with a former CIA “ghost detainee.” CCR has been responsible for organizing and coordinating more than 500 pro bono lawyers across the country in order to represent the men at Guantanamo, ensuring that nearly all have the option of legal representation. CCR represented the detainees with co-counsel in the most recent argument before the Supreme Court on December 5, 2007.
For more information and documents in Mohammed al Qahtani’s case, see the al Qahtani v. Bush and al Qahtani v. Gates case page.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.