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Guantanamo defense calls for charges to be dropped

The convening authority said this week that some of the men facing trial were tortured. Dropping all charges 'is the legally and morally correct course,' the defense writes in a letter.

January 17, 2009|Carol J. Williams

All charges against Guantanamo prisoners should be dropped in light of the admission by the top war-crimes tribunal official that some of the 22 men facing trial were tortured, the tribunal's defense chief said Friday.

The letter to Convening Authority Susan J. Crawford urged her to clear the controversial court's slate before the Tuesday inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama, who has vowed to shut Guantanamo as one of his first actions.

Withdrawal of the charges "is the legally and morally correct course," the defense team leader, Air Force Col. Peter R. Masciola, wrote to Crawford.

Neither Crawford nor the spokesman for the Office of Military Commissions, Joseph DellaVedova, responded immediately to the letter disclosed to the media late Friday.

Crawford told the Washington Post this week that she refused to authorize prosecution of alleged "20th hijacker" Mohammed Qahtani, the Saudi suspected of plotting with the Sept. 11 attackers, because "his treatment met the legal definition of torture."

She also said in the only interview she has given in two years as tribunal overseer that she assumed torture had been used against other Sept. 11 suspects as well.

Bush administration officials authorized the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" shortly after captured terror suspects were first brought to Guantanamo seven years ago.

CIA Director Michael V. Hayden last year confirmed that waterboarding was used on three prisoners: confessed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, suspected Al Qaeda recruiter Abu Zubaydah, and the Saudi accused of plotting the USS Cole attack, Abd al Rahim al Nashiri.

Waterboarding involves interrogators bringing their subject to the brink of death by drowning.

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carol.williams@latimes.com

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