Top Military Commission Official Admits Detainee Was Tortured

January 14, 2009 12:00 am

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Statement Comes As Bush Administration Gears Up To Re-Arraign Guantánamo Detainees

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NEW YORK – In an interview published in the Washington Post today, Susan J. Crawford, the official overseeing the Bush administration’s Office of Military Commissions at Guantánamo, said she refused to send detainee Mohammed al-Qahtani’s case to trial because “we tortured [him].” Al-Qahtani allegedly planned to participate in the 9/11 hijackings. Despite this admission, the government is proceeding with the cases of several other detainees who have been waterboarded and subjected to coercive interrogations. Crawford’s admission comes along with reports that the Office of Military Commissions may have “accidentally” withdrawn the charges against all Guantánamo detainees facing trial, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other defendants charged in the 9/11 terror attacks. As a result, the detainees would need to be re-arraigned before trials can proceed.

Through its John Adams Project with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the American Civil Liberties Union has sponsored expert civilian counsel to assist the under-resourced military defense counsel in the Guantánamo military commissions, including those representing 9/11 detainees.

The following can be attributed to Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU:

“While it is stunning to hear the head of the military commissions come clean and admit she rejected a case because a detainee was tortured by U.S. interrogators, it is well-known that other detainees, including those the Bush administration intends to prosecute on January 19, 2009, were also tortured.

“The government’s statement raises more questions than answers and confirms the depth of the military commissions’ illegitimacy. Yesterday, with only a few days left in office, the Bush administration paved the way to obtain guilty pleas from the other 9/11 detainees who have been tortured. The Bush administration is seeking these guilty pleas on Martin Luther King Day, one day before President-elect Obama is to be inaugurated. The only possible motive for this 11th hour decision is to tie the hands of the incoming Obama administration and keep it from fulfilling its promise to shut down the military commissions.

“The latest revelations only add to the Bush administration’s desperate and chaotic last minute scrambling to salvage the unsalvageable military commission system in what is hopefully its final week in existence. Only by shutting down Guantánamo and ending these sham proceedings can we eliminate the taint of the Bush administration’s deplorable legacy of torture and abuse.”

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