Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Marine judge orders access to secret Gitmo prison camp

Marine judge orders access to US secret prison camp at Guantánamo


Posted on Tue, Oct. 28, 2008


GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba -- A judge has ordered the Pentagon to give two military attorneys unprecedented access to a secret prison camp here in a ruling that specifically notes that alleged 9/11 conspirator Ramzi bin al Shibh has been mentally ill and may be still.

Marine Col. Ralph Kohlmann, the chief judge for military commissions, issued the three-page ruling on Sunday.


He granted access to two Pentagon lawyers with top-secret clearances to inspect a portion of Camp 7, a secret prison camp facility run by a clandestine unit called Task Force Platinum, which segregates former CIA detainees from the other 250 war-on-terror captives here.

Kohlmann limited access to ''the accused's cell, the two adjacent cells, the recreation room, the medical room and the media room,'' and noted in his ruling that the two Navy defense attorneys have volunteered to be blindfolded when driven to the camp.

''This grant of relief does not extend to an order that the defense be permitted to conduct an inspection or evaluation of the accused's detention facility, its operations, or its procedures,'' he said.


Camp 7 has long been a source of mystery at Guantánamo. It is off-limits to both prosecutors and press tours that boast of unrivaled transparency at the prison camps.


Guantánamo commanders have long refused to say who runs it, or how much it cost to construct.

Lawyers have said that Red Cross delegates taken there to meet the 16 former CIA-interrogated detainees are driven in a blacked-out van via a circuitous route to confuse the inspectors of prison conditions on Camp 7's specific whereabouts. The Red Cross has consistently refused to comment.


As of Tuesday evening, no arrangement had been made for the site visit by Navy Cmdr. Suzanne Lachelier and Navy Lt. Richard Federico, the Pentagon-appointed defense attorneys for bin al Shibh, said Michael Berrigan, the deputy chief defense counsel.


A prison camps spokeswoman refused to say how or when such a visit might be accomplished.


At issue is the competence of the alleged 9/11 co-conspirator facing trial along with confessed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and three other Camp 7 detainees. Their next hearing on pretrial motions is Dec. 8.


His lawyers have said they need to see where he is held, and how, in order to evaluate claims he has made to them.


Meantime, Kohlmann ordered a military mental health board to conduct an examination on the 36-year-old Yemeni who at one hearing blurted out that he wanted to be a Sept. 11 hijacker, but couldn't obtain a visa to the United States. Instead, he allegedly helped a Hamburg, Germany, cell of the hijackers reach U.S. soil and attend American flight schools.


Conviction of the broad conspiracy case could carry military execution.


Bin al Shibh's lawyers say he is on psychotropic drugs and has not cooperated with his Pentagon-appointed counsel. He has insisted that he serve as his own defense lawyer, like three of his alleged co-conspirators.


Kohlmann made passing reference to the ruling by the mental health board in his order of access to Camp 7.


He said although bin al Shibh refused to meet with a military psychiatrist, the board found he ''has had a severe mental disease or defect in the recent past'' and ``it is likely that at the time of the Board, the accused continued to have a severe mental disease.


``Additionally, the Board determined that the accused's current condition has the potential to impair his ability to conduct or cooperate intelligently in his defense.''


© 2008 Miami Herald Media Company. All Rights Reserved.


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