Lawyer: U.S. hampers bid to clear Guantanamo detainee

WASHINGTON Wed Aug 12, 2009 6:57pm EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. military lawyer for a Kuwaiti detainee held at the American prison at Guantanamo Bay charged on Wednesday the Obama administration was hampering his efforts to clear his client's name.

Navy Lieutenant Commander Kevin Bogucki said the U.S. State Department would not issue him clearance to travel on Friday to Kuwait, where he planned to hold a news conference outlining the case involving his client, Fouad Al Rabiah.

Al Rabiah was an engineer for Kuwaiti Airlines and has spent seven years at the U.S. detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he stands accused of conspiracy and providing material support to the Taliban and al Qaeda. His military lawyer said the charges were false and that it was a case of mistaken identity.

Bogucki said the State Department demanded that he and his team not appear in their military uniforms or participate in a news conference while in Kuwait, but he refused to agree to the conditions and canceled the trip on Wednesday.

"They are limiting our ability ... to advocate on behalf of our client," Bogucki told Reuters. "The primary purpose of this trip was for us to go there to conduct a press conference to explain our client's innocence and the circumstances that resulted in his apprehension and detention."

Bogucki said his client sought to "rehabilitate his reputation, basically let the Kuwaiti people know that he is an innocent man and the mere fact that he's been held by the United States at Guantanamo doesn't mean he's guilty."

The U.S. government has accused Al Rabiah of providing money to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and helping to coordinate and support Taliban fighters in the mountainous region of Tora Bora in Afghanistan, through which bin Laden was believed to have escaped.

"He has an established history as a relief worker," said Bogucki. "This is similar to the story we wanted to relay in the press conference to the Arab media."

A State Department spokesman had no immediate comment.

Because Bogucki is a military lawyer traveling on government business, he said that he required clearance from the State Department. He noted that other lawyers had traveled to Kuwait in May for a similar reason without any problems.

A U.S. federal judge ordered in late July that another Kuwaiti, Khaled Al-Mutairi, be released from Guantanamo.

President Barack Obama has pledged to close the controversial prison that was opened by former President George W. Bush's administration after the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Separately, a federal judge on Wednesday denied an attempt by another Guantanamo detainee, Adham Mohammed Ali Awad of Yemen, to be released from the facility.

(Editing by Vicki Allen)

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