Guantanamo suspect must submit to strip search
NEW YORK |
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The first man brought from the Guantanamo Bay military prison to face trial in U.S. civilian court must attend the opening of his trial, forcing him to submit to strip searches he has resisted, a judge ruled on Thursday.
U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled that Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani is competent to waive his right to be present for most court proceedings but said Ghailani must appear at least once at the start of trial.
Ghailani, a Tanzanian, is charged with conspiring in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya that killed 224 people. He was transferred in June from Guantanamo Bay in Cuba to be tried in Manhattan federal court.
He has pleaded not guilty to charges including conspiring with Osama bin Laden and other members of al Qaeda to kill U.S. citizens.
The trial is scheduled to begin in late September.
Ghailani has refused to voluntarily appear in court because doing so requires him to submit to a visual strip search that includes inspection of the rectal area.
Such a search, according to expert testimony offered by his defense attorneys, triggers memories of CIA interrogations.
On Thursday, Kaplan held a hearing on the matter and ordered Ghailani to appear. Ghailani declined to take the witness stand but told Kaplan he understood that declining to participate in his trial could put his defense team at a disadvantage.
"Yes, I understand I have the right to be here," Ghailani said. "Can I waive my right to strip searching?"
Ghailani skipped an appearance last November after he was strip searched, saying he was humiliated by it, according to court papers. He has not been in court since.
(Reporting by Edith Honan; editing by Daniel Trotta and Bill Trott)
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