9/11 defendant: US withholds food at Guantanamo
August 20, 2013 4:42PM
FILE - In this Oct. 18, 2012 file photo reviewed by the U.S. Department of Defense, towers overlooking a U.S. detention facility are silhouetted against a morning sunrise at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba. Two U.S. federal agents on Monday, Aug. 19, 2013, defended their interrogation of a Guantanamo Bay prisoner accused of providing assistance to the Sept. 11 hijackers as a pretrial hearing resumed in the slowly unfolding war crimes proceedings for the five men charged in the attacks. (AP Photo/Toronto Star, Michelle Shephard, File)
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (AP) — A defendant in the Sept. 11 terror attack case alleged Tuesday that guards at Guantanamo Bay have been withholding food when he is in court or meeting with his lawyers. Military officials denied that has happened.
The charge by Ramzi bin al Shibh came as he angrily explained to the military judge in his case why he did not want to attend the afternoon session on the second day of a weeklong pretrial hearing at the U.S. base in Cuba.
“It is a form of psychological torture,” he said.
The judge, Army Col. James Pohl, has been allowing the five defendants to skip sessions of their pretrial hearings, but he has said they will be required to attend their actual trial, which is likely at least a year away. The other four defendants had already decided not to come to court Tuesday.
A spokesman for the Guantanamo Bay prison, Navy Capt. Robert Durand, later said bin al Shibh was provided with a “freshly prepared meal” that met Muslim dietary standards, but “the defendant complained that his lunch did not include condiments such as olives and honey.”
The allegation from bin al Shibh, a Yemeni accused of aiding the hijackers in the Sept. 11, 2001, attack, was a rare lively moment in a day that was otherwise devoted to lengthy arguments over aspects of a protective order that governs the handling of classified evidence in the complex terrorism trial.
Lawyers for the five prisoners believe the rules as written make it harder for them to mount a defense based around the men’s harsh treatment while in CIA custody. The arguments were expected to continue Wednesday.
The five prisoners facing trial in the case include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who has portrayed himself as the mastermind of the terrorist plot, and all of them face charges that include terrorism and murder. They could get the death penalty if convicted.