Federal judge finds Pentagon in contempt for failing to record Gitmo testimony

A judge in the US District Court for the District of Columbia Dec. 10 found the US Department of Defense in contempt for failing to videotape the testimony of Yemeni Guantánamo Bay detainee Mohammed al-Adahi. Al-Adahi had petitioned for habeas relief in 2005, which the court granted in August, and Judge Gladys Kessler had directed the DoD to videotape the testimony at the merits hearing in June so that the public and news media could see it. The government failed to comply with that order, claiming it was “due to oversight and miscommunication.”

In her order, Kessler wrote:

The purpose of the Court’s Order requiring the Government to videotape Petitioner’s testimony was to ensure the maximum amount of public accessibility to the judicial process. By requiring the Government to videotape Petitioner’s direct testimony and crossexamination, and then make it public after classification review, the Court sought to ensure that the public would have an opportunity to observe as much of the testimony as possible.

Kessler order the government to post a transcript of al-Adahi’s testimony and to provide a detailed explanation as to how it will avoid such oversight in the future.

The government is currently appealing Kessler’s decision to grant al-Adahi’s petition for habeas corpus. The government argues that Al-Adahi, who has been detained at Guantánamo since 2002, was a supporter or member of the Taliban and/or al-Qaeda, claiming that al-Adahi had acted as an instructor at al-Qaeda training camp al-Farouq in Afghanistan, had familial ties to both the Taliban and al-Qaeda, and had been employed as a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden. Kessler rejected the government’s arguments, finding “no reliable evidence in the record” to support its position. (Jurist, Dec. 10)

Judge Kessler has upheld the habeas corpus rights of other Yemeni Guantánamo detainees.

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