'Deeply Unsettling': Allegation of Translator Link to CIA Torture Site Halts 9/11 Hearing

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'Deeply Unsettling': Allegation of Translator Link to CIA Torture Site Halts 9/11 Hearing

At Guantánamo Bay hearing, accused men say court translator was present at "black site" where they were tortured.

"The courtroom at Guantánamo Bay is piling further injustice on top of impunity for torture," stated Amnesty International's Anne FitzGerald.  (Photo:  Justin Norman/flickr/cc)

The pre-trial hearing for five men suspected of plotting the September 11 attacks was suspended on Monday after two of the men said that a courtroom interpreter was also present at a CIA "black site" where they were tortured.

Amnesty International said the incident marked "just the latest in a string of serious incidents that have marked the inherently unfair military commission process at Guantánamo Bay."

According to media reports, the allegation first came from 42-year-old Ramzi bin al Shibh, who told presiding judge Col. James Pohl soon into the hearing taking place at the U.S. prison in Guantánamo Bay, "I cannot trust [the interpreter] because he was working at the black site with the CIA and we know him from there."

Carol Rosenberg reported for the Miami Herald:

Attorney Cheryl Bormann for another alleged plotter, Walid bin Attash, 36, told the judge, Army Col. James L. Pohl, that her client “was visibly shaken” at recognizing a man in the maximum-security war court from Bin Attash’s “illegal torture.”

She said it was either “the biggest coincidence ever” or “part of the pattern of the infiltration of defense teams.” Monday’s hearing was supposed to start with a presentation by a Justice Department lawyer, Fernando Campoamor-Sanchez, on FBI agents secretly questioning members of the Bin al Shibh defense team, which the Sept. 11 defense teams have called spying on privileged attorney-client conversations.

CNN, which saw a transcript of the proceedings, reports that Bormann also told Pohl that her client said that "there is somebody in this courtroom who was participating in his illegal torture."

Daphne Eviatar, Senior Counsel in Human Rights First’s Law and Security Program, reports:

Gen. Mark Martins, the military commission's chief prosecutor, didn't deny the allegation, but said the government would have to investigate. "I can assure there is no attempt to have someone be put into defense teams in some untoward way, but we do want to collect the facts and understand what the situation is," he said. Defense lawyers agreed, although at least one asked for a separate team of prosecutors -- the Special Review Team, or SRT, assigned to investigate the alleged FBI infiltration of defense teams -- to be the ones to review this new matter as well.

"If these allegations are true, then the interpreter's presence alongside the former black site detainees is deeply unsettling," said Anne FitzGerald, Director of the Research and Crisis Response Program at Amnesty International, who was present in the courtroom.

This incident and the release of the Senate torture report "put the US government in a paradoxical situation: the courtroom at Guantánamo Bay is piling further injustice on top of impunity for torture," she stated.

In addition to the charges of FBI agents spying on attorney-client conversations, as Common Dreams previously reported, there were revelations that "defense lawyers at Guantánamo Bay were censored by the CIA, as well as revelations last April that hundreds of thousands of defense emails were inappropriately given to prosecutors."

The pre-trial hearing is set to reconvene Wednesday morning.

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