WASHINGTON A U.S. appeals court on Wednesday reinstated a military method for searching Guantanamo Bay detainees, reversing at least temporarily a lower court's finding that the searches were so invasive that they improperly cut off access to attorneys.
The searches, initiated in the last few months, included frisking of the groin and anal areas before detainees are taken from their cells to meetings or to phone calls with their lawyers, and after they return.
Lawyers for Guantanamo prisoners say some detainees found the new searches so disrespectful toward their religion that they choose to forgo talking to their lawyers to avoid them.
In a one-sentence order, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit stayed a ruling by U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth last week that had halted the searches and asked for further written briefing.
The Obama administration had filed emergency papers on Wednesday asking the appeals court to let the searches resume.
"The full-frisk search procedure used by Joint Task Force-Guantanamo is the standard procedure used at all Army facilities, and similar or more invasive procedures are used for pretrial detainees held in civilian facilities in the United States," wrote Justice Department lawyers Matthew Collette and Edward Himmelfarb.
Detainee lawyer David Muraskin said the administration's position was disappointing in light of President Barack Obama's stated commitment to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba.
"It's staggering that the government is willing to go to these lengths to enforce procedures that they know violate the detainees' religious beliefs," Muraskin said.
The U.S. military holds 166 detainees, captured abroad on suspicion of terrorism, at Guantanamo.
(Reporting by David Ingram; Editing by Howard Goller and David Brunnstrom)