Monday, August 24 2009 - Legal Response to 9/11
Lawyers can question 9/11 suspect in writing
Federal judge rules detainee's lawyers can question 9/11 mastermind Mohammed _ in writing
Aug 23, 2009 05:22 EST
Lawyers for a Guantanamo Bay detainee will be allowed to question -- in writing -- accused Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a federal judge has ruled. The decision is a setback for government lawyers who had sought to limit the scope of detainee lawyers' challenges to the detention and prosecution of terror suspects.
In a written ruling, Judge Ricardo Urbina says lawyers for detainee Abdul Raheem Ghulam Rabbani can submit written questions about their client to Mohammed. Prosecutors say he worked for Mohammed, but Rabbani's lawyers contend he was just a menial servant, not a part of any terror network.
The ruling says prosecutors may review the answers before delivering them to Rabbani's lawyers to remove any national security information.
Government lawyers had unsuccessfully sought to convince the judge that any questioning of Mohammed by Rabbani's lawyers would risk exposing details of sensitive intelligence programs.
Urbina's 15-page decision says Mohammed may have information that could help Rabbani's case, and allows Rabbani's lawyers to submit "a list of narrowly tailored" questions for Mohammed.
Mohammed has boasted of masterminding the Sept. 11 attacks, and he is the most high-profile detainee of the 229 terror suspects held at the detention facility at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
His possible testimony was a contentious issue in another terrorism case, the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui. The court ruled in that case that a description of some of Mohammed's statements to investigators could be introduced, but not all.
After he was captured in 2002, Rabbani claims he was taken to a "Dark Prison" where he says that for a period of about seven months he was kept in the dark, deprived of food, chained to a wall, and threatened with hanging.
The detainee claims he falsely confessed to knowing Osama bin Laden as a result of this treatment.
Urbina's ruling comes in a civil court challenge to Rabbani's detention, but if it is upheld it could have broader implications as the government prepares to bring detainees to trial in federal criminal courts and military commissions.
President Barack Obama has ordered the Guantanamo Bay prison closed by January 2010.
Urbina's ruling is dated July 22, and was made public earlier this week. Parts
of it are redacted, including a section describing what alleged terror work
the government alleges he did for Mohammed.
Detainee to Question 9/11 Suspect
By JOHN H. CUSHMAN Jr.
WASHINGTON -- A federal judge has granted a prisoner challenging his detention by the military at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, permission to ask questions of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of Al Qaeda's Sept. 11 plot who is the camp's most notorious inmate.
Judge Ricardo M. Urbina of the United States District Court in Washington, D.C., granted the request, which the government had vehemently opposed, only under tightly controlled conditions.
The ruling was issued Thursday in the case of the detainee, Abdul Raheem Ghulam Rabbani, a Pakistani who has been held as a terrorism suspect for five years despite claiming that he did only menial work for Mr. Mohammed, who has been held under extraordinary security since his capture.
Mr. Rabbani's lawyers said that without asking Mr. Mohammed questions about their relationship, Mr. Rabbani could not challenge the government's allegations about himself. The request was one of many made by the defense, only some of which were granted. Balancing Mr. Rabbani's interest in obtaining potentially exculpatory information against the national security interests involved, the court allowed him to "submit a list of narrowly tailored interrogatories."
His questions must focus solely on their relationship before they were arrested and on Mr. Rabbani's role, if any, in Al Qaeda's operations, the judge ordered. No questions about Mr. Mohammed's detention or interrogation would be allowed. And the government would retain the right to redact the answers to the questions if necessary to prevent the release of important national security information.
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