February 5, 2009, New York – Attorneys for Mohammed al Qahtani, the victim of the “First Special Interrogation Plan” overseen by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, filed a motion last night to compel the government to turn over exculpatory evidence in their client’s case and to hold the government in contempt for it’s “flagrant violation” of a judge’s November 2008 order to do so.
“The government denied it had tortured Mr. al Qahtani for years,” said Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) attorney Gitanjali Gutierrez. “Yet even after the head of the military commissions, Susan Crawford, admitted last month that he was tortured they continue to refuse to give us evidence of these acts.”
"Absolutely no justification exists for ignoring the Court’s order to give us evidence of his torture,” continued Ms. Gutierrez. "The Court’s examination of Mr. al Qahtani’s torture is at the heart of this case and unavoidable.”
After amending an earlier November 2008 order, Judge Thomas F. Hogan issued an order in December 2008 requiring the government to turn over any exculpatory evidence it had on the Guantánamo detainees to their attorneys by December 30, 2008. The government failed to disclose information in December, asking instead for an additional 30 days. The government filed what was essentially a second motion for an extension of time on January 30, 2009. The government has now twice delayed its compliance with the Court’s orders, engaging in what CCR attorneys describe in last night’s motion as “improper self-help by granting itself an indefinite extension of time.”
According to attorneys, the government has in its possession readily available information that documents the torture Mr. al Qahtani endured at the hands of interrogators at Guantánamo. The existence of these documents reached major media outlets nearly four years ago. Some additional exculpatory records regarding his torture have been provided for Executive and congressional investigations yet have not been turned over to counsel as required under Judge Hogan’s order. Attorneys say the government’s failure to do so has deprived Mr. al Qahtani of information essential for the Court’s review of his statements made under torture or the threat of torture.
Mr. al Qahtani has been incarcerated at Guantánamo since February 2002. Throughout his imprisonment, he has consistently maintained that he was repeatedly tortured and threatened with torture by U.S. military and civilian interrogators. And, since Mr. al Qahtani filed his habeas petition in October 2006, he has continued to assert that any alleged admissions he made to U.S. personnel were extracted through this torture and threats of torture.
Until recently, the Government had adamantly denied that any U.S. personnel engaged in acts of torture during Mr. al Qahtani’s interrogation, but on January 14, 2009, Military Commission Convening Authority Susan Crawford conceded that by subjecting Mr. al Qahtani to systematic 20-hour interrogations, prolonged sleep deprivation, 160 days of severe isolation, forced nudity, sexual and religious humiliation, and other aggressive interrogation tactics, the government had engaged in acts of torture. For more information on Mr. al Qahtani's case or to read the motion to compel, visit the al Qahtani v. Bush and al Qahtani v. Gate case page.
Mr. Mohammed al Qahtani is represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights and Professor Sandra Babcock, Center for International Human Rights, Northwestern University School of Law.
CCR has led the legal battle over Guantánamo 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 Guantánamo, ensuring that nearly all have the option of legal representation.