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Judge weighs rights of Guantanamo detainees, female guards

By CAROL ROSENBERG | Miami Herald | Published: February 26, 2016

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (Tribune News Service) — A 9/11 trial prosecutor dismissed a Muslim sensitivity argument Friday and urged a military judge to let female guards resume handling the former CIA detainees accused of orchestrating the Sept. 11 hijackings to and from court and legal meetings.

Defense lawyers argued the religious sentiment was heartfelt and, moreover, Guantanamo’s female guards’ touching re-traumatizes men who were tortured naked by the CIA while women watched. They urged the judge not to lift his restraining order on female touching, if for no other reason then it looks like Pentagon brass publicly excoriated the judge to cow him.

Army Col. James L. Pohl, the judge, did not rule on the year-old issue as he concluded a two-week pretrial session that gave the public accounts of conditions in the secret CIA prison network as well as Guantanamo’s clandestine Camp 7 prison.

The judge issued the order Jan. 7, 2015, authorizing only male guards to touch the alleged mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four accused accomplices in the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackings that killed nearly 3,000 people. Since then lawyers have framed it as a religious accommodation versus gender discrimination issue, and called witnesses in both public and secret hearings to help sort it out.

A New York City firefighter, who carries the physical wounds of the terror attacks to this day, declared his disgust at the issue — and the notion that the court had taken up months on it.

“He wants to talk about re-traumatizing, and reliving. What do you think happens to us? I walk around feeling like I have a knife in my chest. And that’s never going to go away,” said Robert Reeg, 63, at Guantanamo grappling with “horrible memories” as he watched the proceedings.

“You would think … the American people were on trial,” he said of this week’s focus on detainee conditions at Camp 7, the female guard questions and allegations that someone at the prison was carrying out a campaign of sleep deprivation against one captive.

Reeg, at the World Trade Center South Tower on Sept. 11, suffered smoke inhalation, fractured ribs, a collapsed lung and knee injuries, and underwent surgery to both knees and a thoracic operation.

“He only gets six hours of sleep a day? I would praise Allah if I could get six hours sleep,” said Reeg. “That’s a lot.”

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©2016 Miami Herald

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Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

A detainee is escorted to the detainee hospital at Joint Task Force Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for care by the medical group on Oct. 28, 2010.
ELISHA DAWKINS/U.S. NAVY

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