A federal judge has tossed out most of the government's evidence against a terrorism detainee on grounds his confessions were coerced, allegedly by U.S. forces, before he became a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay.
In a ruling this week, U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan also said the government failed to establish that 23 statements the detainee made to interrogators at Guantanamo Bay were untainted by the earlier coerced statements made while he was held under harsh conditions in Afghanistan.
However, the judge said statements he made during two military administrative hearings at the U.S. detention center in Cuba, where he was assisted by a personal representative, were reliable and sufficient to justify holding the detainee.
Musa'ab Omar Al Madhwani allegedly engaged in a 2 1/2-hour firefight with Pakistani authorities before his capture in a Karachi apartment in 2002.
The detainee says that after five days in a Pakistani prison, he was handed over to U.S. forces and flown to a pitch-black prison he believes was in Afghanistan. He says he was suspended in his cell by his left hand and that guards blasted his cell with music 24 hours a day.
He said that he confessed to whatever allegations his interrogators made and that harassment and threats continued after he was moved to a different prison in Afghanistan.
Al Madhwani said that interrogators at Guantanamo Bay on multiple occasions threatened him when he tried to retract what he now claims was a false confession.
The judge said he was particularly concerned that interrogators at Guantanamo Bay relied on or had access to the coerced confessions from Afghanistan made by Al Madhwani.
The logical inference from the record, said the judge, is that interrogators at Guantanamo Bay reviewed Al Madhwani's coerced confessions with him and asked him to make identical confessions.
"Far from being insulated from his coerced confessions, his Guantanamo confessions were thus derived from them," Hogan wrote.
The judge said the government presented medical records about the detainee's debilitating physical and mental condition that confirm his claims of harsh treatment during the 40 days he spent in Pakistann and Afghanistan.
Despite Hogan's concerns about the 23 statements, the judge relied on other evidence and three statements Al Madhwani made to a military tribunal and a review board to conclude that he trained, traveled and associated with members of al-Qaida, including high-level operatives. On those grounds, the judge ruled he is legally detained.
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