Pentagon Moves to Block Exam of Tortured Guantánamo Prisoner

WASHINGTON — In his last days as Secretary of the Military, Ryan D. McCarthy has moved to thwart a federal choose’s order for an impartial examination of a mentally ailing prisoner at Guantánamo Bay who was beforehand tortured there, the Justice Division disclosed on Friday.

Attorneys for the prisoner, Mohammed al-Qahtani, 45, had obtained the order in March for 2 overseas medical doctors and one from the U.S. Military to look at the person beneath an Military regulation to find out whether or not he ought to be repatriated to his native Saudi Arabia for psychiatric care.

The Protection Division has not permitted such a medical evaluate because the detention middle was established in January 2002, and the order was poised to change into an early check of the Biden administration as it considers resuming releases from Guantánamo.

However on Friday, Justice Division legal professionals notified the U.S. District Court docket in Washington that Mr. McCarthy had signed a two-page memorandum on Monday excluding detainees at Guantánamo from the regulation that was the premise of the court docket order.

In March, Choose Rosemary M. Collyer dominated that the regulation required the medical review, and that if the medical doctors discovered repatriating Mr. Qahtani to Saudi Arabia was in his finest curiosity, she would order it.

The order rattled the Protection Division, which has fought for practically 20 years to dam civilian courts from deciding questions involving the detainees. Officers warned that, if an examination have been carried out, others among the many present 40 detainees would search medical repatriation.

Choose Collyer has since retired, and one other choose, Ellen Segal Huvelle, upheld the order in August. The following month an appeals court docket rejected a government pleading to delay the examination, leaving the Trump administration with a quandary: Allow the primary ever decisive outdoors analysis of a Guantánamo detainee or, as earlier administrations have achieved to keep away from court docket orders to launch a detainee, voluntarily switch Mr. Qahtani to a psychiatric hospital in Saudi Arabia.

It did neither, citing restrictions at Guantánamo throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Given Mr. McCarthy’s choice to change the regulation, the Justice Department on Friday requested the court docket to vacate Choose Collyer’s order. “All the authorized foundation underlying this court docket’s March 2020 Order has evaporated,” it stated.

As soon as Mr. Biden takes workplace subsequent week, his Justice Division may select to keep up the identical place or withdraw the request to the court docket.

Mr. Qahtani’s lawyer, Ramzi Kassem, referred to as the transfer “a last-ditch effort by the Trump administration to lock Joe Biden right into a path of resisting the impartial medical examination of a mentally ailing man that the federal government has admitted torturing.”

Mr. Qahtani, who was recognized with schizophrenia, was captured alongside the Pakistan-Afghanistan border three months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist assaults and subjected to 2 months of steady, brutal interrogation at Camp X-Ray at Guantánamo in late 2002 and early 2003.

Leaked paperwork present that Mr. Qahtani was disadvantaged of sleep and water, saved nude and was menaced by canine, whereas beneath the care of army medics.

“There is no such thing as a actual query that the examination will affirm my shopper’s extreme diseases and result in his medical repatriation,” stated Mr. Kassem, a regulation professor whose clinic at Metropolis College of New York represents Mr. Qahtani.

Mr. Qahtani has been suspected of being certainly one of a number of failed, aspirational twentieth hijackers within the Sept. 11 assaults. However he has by no means been charged with a criminal offense, partly as a result of he was tortured.

Stephen I. Vladeck, a professor on the College of Texas Faculty of Legislation who follows Guantánamo litigation, stated the Military secretary has the authority to switch a regulation however the query seemingly confronting the court docket can be “whether or not the change is procedurally legitimate and whether or not it may be utilized retroactively to this pending case.”

He additionally referred to as the timing suspicious, days earlier than Mr. McCarthy is relieved as Military secretary. “They misplaced on the rule. So that they modified the rule.” He referred to as it “a reasonably shady method to duck the problem.”

A Pentagon spokesman, Mike Howard, declined to touch upon the change, together with whether or not the Division of Protection’s normal counsel was consulted beforehand.

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