GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba - Medical records show an accused terrorist now held at Guantanamo Bay sustained a head injury while he was in CIA custody and has suffered lasting health problems as a result, his lawyer said Wednesday.
Ammar al-Baluchi, one of five Guantanamo prisoners charged with aiding the Sept. 11 attack, told medical officials at the U.S. base in Cuba that he suffered auditory and visual hallucinations, headaches, memory loss and delusions as a result of the injury, attorney James Connell said at a pretrial hearing dealing with whether he had adequate avenues to report allegations of mistreatment.
The injury occurred between 2003 and September 2006, when al-Baluchi was held in the CIA's network of overseas prisons and subjected to a special interrogation program for suspected terrorists that his lawyers say amounted to torture. The records do not indicate how or where the injury occurred.
Al-Baluchi was taken to Guantanamo in September 2006 along with 13 other men who had been held in CIA custody.
Connell mentioned the injury during a pretrial hearing to underscore his argument that his client has no real avenue to raise complaints of mistreatment as guaranteed under the Convention Against Torture, an international treaty ratified by the U.S. in 1994. The lawyer says the government took no action despite the prosecution's contention that Guantanamo prisoners have the ability to have such claims addressed.
"Mr. al-Baluchi reported maltreatment and nothing happened," the lawyer told the judge in the military commission where the five detainees face charges that include terrorism, hijacking and murder for their alleged roles in the attack. "These records just moldered away with no follow-up."
Al-Baluchi is the nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the lead defendant who has previously told military authorities that he was the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 attack. Al-Baluchi, born in Pakistan, is alleged to have sent money to the hijackers for expenses.
He was captured in Pakistan in April 2003 and held for three years by the CIA under its rendition, detention and interrogation program, which included the use of such methods as being repeatedly smashed into a flexible wall, confined in a small space, deprived of sleep and the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding, according to previously released government documents.
Lawyers for the five men charged in the attack have been arguing this week that the rules for handling classified evidence in the death penalty trial by a military commission are so restrictive that they are hobbling their defense efforts.
CIA spokesman Dean Boyd declined to comment on the allegation that al-Baluchi was injured in the agency's custody, citing the ongoing legal proceedings. Prosecutors have repeatedly said the evidence rules are necessary to protect national security, denying that they violate the Convention on Torture and portraying the issue of the men's alleged mistreatment as irrelevant.
Prosecutor Clay Trivett told the court that the focus of the case should remain on the Sept. 11 attack rather than the men's allegations of torture. "It's about the summary execution of 2,976 people," he said.