U.S. ordered to show papers on bomb plot
A federal district judge, saying he questioned the government's claim that a Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, detainee had planned a radioactive-bomb attack in the United States, ordered the Justice Department on Thursday to give the detainee's lawyers documents on his treatment.
The New York Times
WASHINGTON — A federal district judge, saying he questioned the government's claim that a Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, detainee had planned a radioactive-bomb attack in the United States, ordered the Justice Department on Thursday to give the detainee's lawyers documents on his treatment.
The documents are central to the claim of the prisoner, Binyam Mohamed, that he falsely confessed to the dirty-bomb plot and other offenses only after being tortured in Morocco at the direction of the United States.
"My concern is getting to the truth," the judge, Emmet Sullivan, said at a hearing.
The case of Mohamed, an Ethiopian-born former British resident, has drawn international attention and been at the center of diplomatic tensions between the United States and Britain. This week, British officials said they had referred questions about his treatment for possible criminal investigation by their law-enforcement authorities.
The tension between the governments has intensified in recent weeks after the Pentagon dropped war-crimes charges against Mohamed and the Justice Department said it would no longer rely on its dirty-bomb claims as a justification for holding him.
Sullivan asked at Thursday's hearing, why, after more than six years, the government had stepped away from its claims about a dirty-bomb plot. "That raises a question as to whether or not the allegations were ever true," the judge said.
John Ashcroft, then the attorney general, announced in 2002 that a plot to detonate a radioactive bomb in the United States had been foiled and a U.S. citizen, Jose Padilla, detained. Pentagon officials have claimed that Mohamed assisted Padilla.
After Padilla was held for 3 ½ years in a naval brig, the Justice Department abandoned its dirty-bomb claims against him. He was convicted of other charges in 2007.
Pressed by Sullivan as to whether the government stood behind its assertion of a dirty-bomb plot, a Justice Department lawyer, Andrew Warden, said, "The short answer is yes."
But Warden said the government could prove that Mohamed was being properly held without evidence of that plot. Military prosecutors have said they will file new charges against Mohamed with the Guantánamo war-crimes tribunal, but they have not said whether the bomb plot will be among those charges.
The government claims Mohamed confessed to the plot and to attending al-Qaida training camps.
Zachary Katznelson, a lawyer for Mohamed, said in court Thursday that all his confessions were made after "he was tortured again and again and again until he just parroted what his torturers wanted him to say." In Morocco, Katznelson said, Mohamed was beaten and repeatedly cut with razor blades on his genitals and elsewhere.
Mohamed's lawyers have laid out a detailed argument that he was subjected to the government's program of rendition to other countries. They said evidence shows that U.S. intelligence agents transferred him to Morocco.
The documents Sullivan directed the government to turn over concern Mohamed's treatment during the two years he was held in Pakistan, Morocco and Afghanistan after he was first detained at the airport in Karachi, Pakistan, in 2002.
Katznelson said evidence of torture would prove Mohamed had never voluntarily admitted to the dirty-bomb plot or any other involvement with al-Qaida.
The government has said Mohamed's claims of torture are not credible. A Moroccan consular official, Karim Elmansouri, said he had no details on Mohamed's case but Morocco protected human rights.
Paul Gimigliano, a CIA spokesman, said: "The CIA does not conduct or condone torture. Nor does it transport individuals anywhere for the purpose of torture."
Last week, a British court ruled that 35 documents in British intelligence files concerning Mohamed's treatment should be turned over to his lawyers.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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