Sunday, September 29, 2019

LGC Newsletter – September 2019

Guantánamo Bay
The 38th pre-trial hearing of five men accused of involvement in attacks on New York in September 2001 dominated the month of September at Guantánamo as the first ever three-week hearing started on 9 September, ending on Friday 27th, to discuss a defence motion to suppress testimonies from FBI witnesses as well as what can and cannot be asked of them. Prior to the start of this hearing, the prosecution issued a document revealing facts that had previously been classified. These revealed that the FBI had access to some of the defendants when they were held at secret CIA prisons prior to being brought to Guantánamo in 2006. According to one of the defence lawyers, James Connell, who filed the motion, the information shows that “the FBI sent well over 1,000 questions to the CIA for the agency to ask detainees, including [Khalid Sheikh] Mohammed, who was subjected to waterboarding 183 times.”
Other information revealed by the new information “included confirmation that detainees Hawsawi, bin al-Shibh, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri were held and questioned at a specific black site in Guantánamo called Echo 2 between late 2003 and early 2004. That is the same location where they were questioned after being returned to Guantánamo in September 2006 and where detainee meetings with defense attorneys are still held.”
Previously, the FBI had always maintained that it was separate to the CIA’s extraordinary rendition programme. While the US “government claims that the defendants’ incriminating statements at Guantanamo were voluntary and thus should be admissible in court” as they were made using conventional interview techniques, Connell stated that the “new disclosures on CIA-FBI coordination significantly strengthened his position that the statements were, in fact, obtained by torture as part of one large interrogation program spanning the black sites and Guantanamo Bay.
As part of the hearing, the testimony of FBI agents who had interviewed the defendants was heard and the question of “whether the FBI’s involvement in the CIA’s black-site interrogations should disallow statements provided later, in 2007, in interrogations by the FBI”, their suppression, was raised. One of the witnesses, FBI Special Agent James Fitzgerald, whose testimony took up most of the second week of the hearing, confirmed that “he and his colleagues sent hundreds of interrogation questions to the CIA while the defendants were at the black sites, and that the CIA had sent cables back with significant amounts of information that is now relevant to the case.”
Future pre-trial hearings are expected to deal with suppression motions to exclude statements made under duress of torture to the FBI by other defendants and hear the testimony of other witnesses.
In the third week, before the end of the suppression motion hearing, defence and prosecution lawyers argued over who was causing delays to the case and the feasibility of the schedule set by Judge Cohen in order to meet his date set for the trial to begin in January 2021.
Following a petition by Omar Khadr in August to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit for the military appeals court to hear his appeal of his 2012 conviction at Guantánamo, for which he has already served his entire sentence at Guantánamo and in Canada, the court has appointed three judges to hear the appeal, which was filed in 2013 but has not progressed for several years. According to his US lawyer, Sam Morison, the US Department of Defense has said it cannot hear his appeal as he is a “fugitive” having returned to Canada even though he was sent there by the US.

Extraordinary Rendition:
A report by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security in New Zealand has found that intelligence agencies in the country did not know that information they received from US agencies was obtained through torture even though they knew it came from individuals held at secret locations; thus the country’s intelligence agencies (SIS and GCSB) have been cleared of complicity and involvement in the CIA’s extraordinary rendition programme. New Zealand launched an inquiry into its role in the CIA programme in 2015 following the 2014 publication of the redacted US Senate report on the issue which revealed many details of the programme. Nonetheless, the report found that the agencies had “received many intelligence reports obtained from detainees who had been tortured.” The report looked at New Zealand’s role and possible connections to the rendition programme between 2001 and 2009 and whether there were adequate guidelines in place to deal with involvement and operations with foreign intelligence. In response the agencies have said they “will look at disposing of, or sealing, any intelligence reports received from the CIA as a result of torture”.
Although the findings absolve the agencies of involvement in the rendition programme, they still knew the US was arbitrarily and illegally holding detainees and yet still put questions to the CIA to ask them, thus condoning part of the illegal action of the US. One of the people to whom questions was put is current Guantánamo prisoner, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was then being held at a secret CIA torture prison. The 2014 report revealed he had been waterboarded 183 and he is currently potentially facing the death penalty at Guantánamo on the basis of evidence obtained through the use of torture. In addition, New Zealand agencies could have contributed information that led to the tortured detainees being captured.

In a deposition case as to whether two CIA contractor psychologists who helped to design the CIA extraordinary rendition programmes, James E. Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen, can be questioned as part of an investigation in Poland into the extraordinary rendition and torture of Guantánamo prisoner Abu Zubaydah, the Ninth U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled 2-1 to allow the two men to answer limited questions by the investigation and for the first time in a court called the treatment Abu Zubaydah received “torture”. Abu Zubaydah was held in Poland from December 2002 to September 2003 at a secret CIA facility and tortured. He has successfully prosecuted the Polish state for this at the European Court of Human Rights, acknowledging he was tortured. Poland was only one of the countries he was shuttled between and tortured after his kidnap in 2002 and until he arrived at Guantánamo in 2006, by which time the CIA has not only conceded they had the wrong man but were willing to admit it. He nonetheless remains at Guantánamo, secluded from other prisoners, and has never faced charge or trial.

LGC Activities:
The October Shut Guantánamo! demo will be on 3rd October at 12-2pm outside the US Embassy, Nine Elms Lane, SW11 (nearest underground: Vauxhall):

Saturday, August 31, 2019

LGC Newsletter – August 2019

Guantánamo Bay
Pre-trial hearings continued at Guantánamo in the case of Abdul Hadi Al-Iraqi (who claims his real name is Nashwan Al-Tamir), accused of fighting against the US in Afghanistan after the war broke out there in 2001; his trial is expected to start in 2020. The hearing proceeded slowly with formal matters, and due to back problems and pain in his spine, the defendant did not attend all of the hearing which was delayed at times. Issues covered included a legal filing against two former employees working on the case, including a judge, for a conflict of interest, after they applied for civilian jobs at the Department of Justice while working on the case. Others involved in the case were also questioned concerning their involvement and connections to other officials.
During the hearing, Al-Iraqi’s lawyers tried to get a federal court to stop the current pre-trial hearing to consider whether he is medically competent to take part in the hearing. In addition, they sought to get access to Camp 7 where he is residing to look at the conditions of his confinement and whether that can impact the case. As part of this claim, statements made by a former commander, Rear Adm. John C. Ring, at Guantánamo, who was fired in April without a reason given, were considered. For over one year, he had been seeking to have Camp 7 closed and replaced by a Camp 8 with better facilities for inmates. During consideration of this point, it was revealed that Ring was fired for “mishandling classified information and not being truthful about it,” according to one prosecutor. The case is in recess until October.

The judge in the case of five men accused of involvement in attacks on New York City in September 2001, Judge Col W Shane Cohen, has set a tentative trial start date of 11 January 2021 for their case. The men were charged in 2008 and face the death penalty but pre-trial hearings have proceeded slowly and have been stopped for over a year at some stages with many outstanding issues still to be resolved. The date is tentative and the trial start may not happen but having taken over the case recently Cohen is keen for matters to proceed.

Following new charges filed earlier this year against Indonesian prisoner Hambali, accused of involvement in the Bali bombings in 2002, the FBI has visited Malaysia on several occasions to conduct interviews and collect evidence ahead of a potential trial. Lawyers for Hambali have also interviewed at least one witness in Malaysia. Two Malaysians are held at Guantánamo and were arrested with Hambali. The Malaysian authorities said they cooperated with the FBI and are also still seeking to get the two Malaysians repatriated, although the decision is up to the US. Hambali’s lawyer does not believe he will be tried, if at all, in open court due to evidence in the case having been obtained through torture at secret CIA prisons.

LGC Activities:
The September Shut Guantánamo! demo will be on 5th September at 12-2pm outside the US Embassy, Nine Elms Lane, SW11 (nearest underground: Vauxhall):