Judge’s Ruling Averts Guantanamo Detainee’s Testimony, for Now
A military judge on Wednesday averted a showdown over the First Amendment and the Obama administration’s military commission trials at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, issuing a ruling that avoids for now testimony by a Saudi man about the Central Intelligence Agency and torture.
Times Topic: Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri
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The judge, Col. James L. Pohl, ordered Guantánamo prison officials to allow Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri to meet with his defense lawyers without being shackled.
Mr. Nashiri’s lawyers had contended that their client was being re-traumatized because he had been tortured by the C.I.A. while in shackles. In support of that motion, they had proposed calling him to testify on Thursday about his treatment. Prosecutors had asked that the courtroom be closed during his testimony, provoking a legal challenge from the news media.
Colonel Pohl’s order, however, probably only delays an eventual fight over whether the news media and the public will be allowed to see Mr. Nashiri testify. He has been charged with helping to plot Al Qaeda’s attack on the American destroyer Cole in 2000, and his defense team is expected to raise his treatment at the hands of the C.I.A. as evidence that could mitigate against a death sentence.
The case is now going through pretrial motions. Among those motions was one in which defense lawyers had asked that Mr. Nashiri be allowed to meet with them without being restrained, contending that the practice of shackling him was interfering with their relationship and ability to prepare for trial.
Prosecutors responded by asking for a closed session with the judge to set rules for what could be made public, raising the possibility that the courtroom would be closed when Mr. Nashiri took the stand in order to protect government secrets.
A consortium of news organizations, including The New York Times, objected and retained David Alan Schulz, a First Amendment lawyer, who urged Colonel Pohl to keep the courtroom open. Other members included Fox News, The Miami Herald, National Public Radio, The New Yorker, Reuters, The Tribune Company and The Washington Post.