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Detainees' rights subverted at Guantánamo, their lawyers say

A federal judge asks for statements from two guards accused of threatening a detainee.

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On July 18, Ahmed Zaid Zuhair, a detainee in Camp 6 of the US Naval Station at Guantánamo Bay, wrote to his legal team in the US, terminating all written communication. He claimed that two guards had harassed him the previous night: one threatening to kill him and quarter his body; the other threatening to cut off his ears and nose. One guard then read through his legal correspondence, confiscating several documents.

"Right now, my state of mind is not normal because I have been threatened with death by a guard," Mr. Zuhair wrote. "Do not send any more papers after today."

It's impossible to verify Zuhair's charges. The US military says it won't comment on specific allegations in a district court case. But Zuhair's decision to halt communication with his legal team highlights the ongoing challenge of defending inmates at Guantánamo.

If detainees can't communicate with their lawyers without fear of retribution, defense lawyers say, then their rights to an attorney – or to challenge their detention under habeas corpus – don't amount to much.

"Without assurances that future contact with his lawyers will not occasion death threats, Zuhair's right to habeas corpus is meaningless," says Darryl Li, a member of Zuhair's legal team from the Allard Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School.


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