Gitmo Secret Prison Commander to Testify

Camp 7 commander to speak

Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base / AP
April 14, 2014

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE—A commander from Guantanamo Bay’s infamous—and until recently highly secret—Camp 7 will testify this week in military court about how prisoners are treated in the highly secure compound, which houses 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and other high value terror suspects.

The proceeding against the world’s most notorious accused terrorists resumed Monday for the first time this year, with the military court seeking to determine whether the alleged 9/11 enabler Ramzi bin al Shibh is fit to stand trial.

Al Shibh was tossed from court during the last hearings in December after he began shouting about alleged abuse at Camp 7. Prosecutors in the case then filed a motion to determine al Shibh’s competency, a move that could potentially shine a greater light on conditions in the secret camp.

One of the witnesses who will testify in this proceeding is a commander at Camp 7, according to defense attorneys for the accused terrorists. However, it remains unclear if the commander’s testimony will be heard in open court or behind closed doors for classification reasons.

Al Shibh has long complained of noises and vibrations in the prison that keep him awake at night. Military officials deny that they are doing anything intentional to interrupt al Shibh’s sleep.

The accusations recall similar complaints made by al Shibh and others about their treatment and alleged abuse in a secret CIA detention facility where they were held before being transferred to Gitmo.

In addition to the Camp 7 commander, three other military psychiatrists who have met with al Shibh will testify about his mental state.

Jim Harrington, a civil defense lawyer for al Shibh, told reporters late Sunday that while the noises have "minimized significantly" in recent weeks, "clearly there are noises that bother him."

Harrington could not provide many details due to classified restrictions on what he says.

"The question is whether these are deliberately caused by somebody doing it to him, whether there’s some injury he’s suffered in the past, or something that’s happened to him to cause him to be more sensitive to sounds, or a combination of that," Harrington said, alluding to al Shibh’s past treatment.

Harrington went on to claim that there is "sufficient evidence" that the sounds and vibrations are part "of intentional conduct toward him."

He could not discuss past incidents that al Shibh may have been subject to due to classification issues.

James Connell, another defense lawyer who represents accused terrorist Ali Abd al Aziz Ali, is one of the few who have visited Camp 7.

Connell related some details of his visit to reporters on Sunday. He said that the prison conditions amount to unjust punishment.

"I can’t tell you anything about the layout or details but can tell you it’s a place that imposes extreme isolation on people who are held there," Connell said. "The interaction between detainees is minimal and much more isolating than other prison facilities I’ve visited in the United States.

Connell said that he is preparing to file a court pleading on the issue.

"There are a number of factors, the isolation is one of them," he said. "There’s the isolation and socialization issue, there are issues about communication with the outside world."

"You think about ordinary prison, a person in a prison can have a radio, can watch TV, can watch the news and know what’s going on in the world," Connell said. "A person in an ordinary prison can call their family, call their lawyer, they can write letters to their lawyer that aren’t monitored, they can write letters to their family that aren’t monitored."

"This facility, and indeed this whole proceeding, is set up to keep them from communicating what happened to them," Connell said.

Another wrinkle in the trial emerged early Monday before proceedings had even begun and has the potential to delay the proceedings even further.

Defense lawyers reportedly are accusing the FBI of spying on them, and are seeking an "urgent hearing" to discuss FBI interrogation of them, according to the Miami Herald.

The FBI is said to have to have turned a security officer for al Shibh’s defense team into an informant, raising many issues for the court to consider, according to the Herald.