Sleep Deprivation Raised in bin Laden Driver Case
GUANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba - A newly-released document suggests Osama bin Laden's former driver may have been subjected to 50 days of sleep deprivation at the Guantanamo prison camp in Cuba, the prisoner's defense lawyers said on Monday.
Lawyers for Salim Hamdan, a Yemeni in his late 30s, previously alleged Hamdan was beaten and abused. But they said sleep deprivation for 50 days, if proved, would be among the worst abuse he suffered at the hands of his American captors.
They also said the records indicated Hamdan and other prisoners at the remote detention camp in southeastern Cuba were visited by someone called "Alfred Hitchcock," apparently after the British master of psychological thriller films who died in 1980.
Hamdan is charged with conspiracy and providing material support to terrorists. Prosecutors argue he was a willing participant in al Qaeda while his lawyers say he was a member of a motor pool and drove bin Laden because he needed the $200 monthly salary.
Hamdan, wearing a traditional headdress and a white gown under a Western-style blazer, attended the first day of a week of hearings on legal motions before the war court.
His trial, scheduled to start in a week, would be the first at the tribunals. He faces life in prison if convicted.
Hamdan's lawyers said they discovered the document among 600 pages of "confinement" evidence handed over to the defense team on Saturday, 9 days before trial. It said Hamdan was put into "Operation Sandman" between June 11 and July 30, 2003.
Operation Sandman has been described in press reports as a program devised by behavioral scientists where an inmate's sleep is systematically interrupted.
"My view personally is that sleep deprivation of that nature extending for 50 days would constitute torture," said Joseph McMillan, one of Hamdan's civilian lawyers.
Documents released last week indicated that Canadian prisoner Omar Khadr was deprived of uninterrupted sleep at Guantanamo before an interview by a Canadian investigator.
Last month a defense lawyer urged a Guantanamo judge to help restore America's reputation by dropping attempted murder charges against Afghan prisoner Mohammed Jawad because he was subjected to 14 consecutive days of sleep deprivation.
Hamdan's lawyers have asked the war court to throw out his out-of-court statements due to coercion.
Their motions allege Hamdan was beaten in Afghanistan and subjected to "more sophisticated" abuse at Guantanamo including sexual humiliation, isolation, intimidation and deception.
WHO WAS ALFRED HITCHCOCK?
Defense lawyers said they were curious about the meaning of entries in the documents that "Alfred Hitchcock" had visited Hamdan and other prisoners.
"Who Alfred Hitchcock is I have no idea," said Navy Lt. Cmdr Brian Mizer, a defense lawyer. "It's obviously a code name for something."
Mike Berrigan, deputy chief defense counsel for the tribunals, called the last-minute submission of the documents "outrageous" and said it was another example of the unfairness of the tribunals.
"It's no way to do business and it puts a lie, to the world, that these are full and fair proceedings," he said.
Military officials had no immediate comment. The defense said it would seek sanctions as a result of the last-minute handover of papers due last December.
Earlier in the hearings, Navy Capt. Keith Allred, the military judge, said accused Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and some of his co-defendants may have relevant evidence to offer as defense witnesses for Hamdan.
The defense intends to call eight prisoners, including Mohammed and three other alleged September 11 plotters, Walid bin Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh and Mustafa al Hawsawi. They say Mohammed and bin Attash have evidence to exonerate Hamdan.
© 2008 Reuters