FORT MEADE, Md. (Reuters) - An attorney for a Saudi man charged in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks accused his U.S. jailers at the Guantanamo Bay military prison on Thursday of mistreatment.
The charges by defense attorney Walter Ruiz at a pretrial hearing at Guantanamo prompted arguments about whether the remaining 122 inmates at the prison in Cuba should be treated under standards of U.S. or international law.
“Constitutional rights do not stop at a prison door,” said Ruiz, who is defending Mustafa al-Hawsawi, 46, against war crimes charges.
Ruiz said Hawsawi showed possible symptoms of colon cancer but he might not be getting proper medical care.
The attorney also said abuse by Hawsawi’s guards, which he called “torture,” appeared to have worsened his medical condition and contributed to a dramatic weight loss.
Blood had been found in Hawsawi’s urine recently, he said. Hawsawi also has sat on a pillow during hearings of the military court because of pain in his colon.
“Excessive rectal examinations” since Hawsawi was captured in 2003 might have caused his medical problem, Ruiz said. He asked Army Colonel Judge James Pohl for permission to question Hawsawi’s doctors and to review his medical records.
Hawsawi is accused of being an organizer and financier of the Sept. 11 attacks, which killed almost 3,000 people in New York, Pennsylvania and the Pentagon.
Prosecuting attorneys said some of Hawsawi’s reported ailments might stem from a Dec. 7 struggle with guards at Camp Seven, Guantanamo Bay’s secret lockup for former Central Intelligence Agency captives.
The hearing is the first in the case since the December release of a Senate committee report detailing torture methods used under a secret U.S. detention program. The report cites CIA records indicating that Hawsawi has been diagnosed with chronic hemorrhoids and other rectal ailments.
Ruiz said the handling of Hawsawi and other Guantanamo detainees violated an article of the Geneva Conventions forbidding torturing prisoners of war.
Justice Department attorney Clay Trivett said Guantanamo detainees should be classified as “alien unlawful belligerents” but not prisoners of war.
He said the Military Commissions Act of 2009 approved by Congress set the standard for treatment.
Hearings this week in the slow-moving trial previously centered on defense allegations that the CIA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation were trying to infiltrate the defense team.
The Guantanamo hearing was monitored over closed circuit television from a media center at Fort Meade.
Reporting by Tom Ramstack; Editing by Ian Simpson and Eric Beech