Wednesday, April 30, 2008

GITMO LAWYER SAYS CONDITIONS DROVE CLIENT INSANE

WILLIAM GLABERSON, INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE Next month, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Yemeni who was once a driver for Osama bin Laden, could become the first detainee to be tried for war crimes in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. By now, he should be busily working on his defense.

But his lawyers say he cannot. They say Hamdan, already the subject of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, has essentially been driven insane by solitary confinement in a tiny cell where he spends at least 22 hours a day, goes to the bathroom and eats all his meals. His defense team says he is suicidal, hears voices, has flashbacks, talks to himself and says the restrictions of Guantanamo "boil his mind."

"He will shout at us," said his military defense lawyer, Lieutenant Commander Brian Mizer. "He will bang his fists on the table."

His lawyers have asked a military judge to stop his case until Hamdan is placed in less restrictive conditions at Guantanamo, saying he cannot get a fair trial if he cannot focus on defending himself. The judge is to hear arguments as soon as Monday on whether he has the power to consider the claim.

Critics have long asserted that Guantanamo's climate-controlled isolation is a breeding ground for insanity. But turning that into a legal claim marks a new stage for the military commissions at Guantanamo. . .

With their filings, Hamdan's lawyers are setting the stage for similar challenges to the procedures of Guantanamo in some 80 expected war crimes cases, lawyers for other detainees say. "The issue of mistreatment of prisoners, the miserable lives they live in these cells, will come up in every case," said Clive Stafford Smith, a lawyer for 35 detainees. . .

In more than six years of detention, Hamdan has had two phone calls to his family and no visits. He has been disciplined, legal filings say, for having a Snickers bar that was given to him by his lawyers and for possessing too many socks. "Conditions are asphalt, excrement and worse," he wrote his lawyers in February. "Why, why, why?"

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