New York TimesPosted online: Tuesday, December 05, 2006 at 0000 hrs Print Email
miami, december 4: Jose Padilla, a Brooklyn-born Muslim convert whom the Bush administration had accused of plotting a dirty bomb attack and had detained without charges, experienced a break from the monotony of his three and a half years solitary confinement in a bare cell in the brig at the Naval Weapons Station in Charleston, South Caolina, to go to the dentist.
Several guards in camouflage and riot gear approached cell No 103. They unlocked a rectangular panel at the bottom of the door and Padilla’s bare feet slid through, eerily disembodied. As one guard held down a foot with his black boot, the others shackled Padilla’s legs. Next, his hands emerged through another hole to be manacled.
Wordlessly, the guards, pushing into the cell, chained Padilla’s cuffed hands to a metal belt. Briefly, his expressionless eyes met the camera before he lowered his head submissively in expectation of what came next: noise-blocking headphones over his ears and blacked-out goggles over his eyes.
The videotape of that trip to the dentist, which was recently released to Padilla’s lawyers and viewed by The New York Times, offers the first concrete glimpse inside the secretive military incarceration of a US citizen whose detention without charges became a test case of President Bush’s powers in the fight against terror. Still frames from the videotape were posted in Padilla’s electronic court file late Friday.
To Padilla’s lawyers, the pictures capture the dehumanisation of their client during his military detention from mid-2002 until earlier this year, when the government changed his status from enemy combatant to criminal defendant and transferred him to the federal detention centre in Miami. He awaits trial scheduled for late January.
Now lawyers for Padilla, 36, suggest that he is unfit to stand trial. They argue that he has been so damaged by his interrogations and prolonged isolation that he suffers post-traumatic stress disorder and is unable to assist in his own defense. His interrogations, they say, included hooding, stress positions, assaults, threats of imminent execution and the administration of “truth serums.”
In the brig, Padilla was denied access to counsel for 21 months. Andrew Patel, one of his lawyers, said his isolation was not only severe but compounded by material and sensory deprivations. In an affidavit filed Friday, he alleged that Padilla was held alone in a 10-cell wing of the brig; that he had little human contact other than with his interrogators; that his cell was electronically monitored and his meals were passed to him through a slot in the door; that windows were blackened, and there was no clock or calendar; and that he slept on a steel platform after a foam mattress was taken from him, along with his copy of the Koran, “as part of an interrogation plan.”
One of Padilla’s lawyers said Padilla was a “completely docile” prisoner. “There was not one disciplinary problem with Jose ever, not one citation, not one act of disobedience.”
Federal prosecutors and defence lawyers are locked in a tug of war over the relevancy of Padilla’s military detention to the present criminal case. Federal prosecutors have asked the judge to forbid Padilla’s lawyers from mentioning the circumstances of his military detention during the trial, maintaining that their accusations could “distract and inflame the jury.”
Padilla’s status was abruptly changed to criminal defendant from enemy combatant last fall. At the time, the Supreme Court was weighing whether to take up the legality of his military detention—and thus the issue of the president’s authority to seize a US citizen on US soil and hold him indefinitely without charges—when the administration pre-empted its decision by filing criminal charges against Padilla.
If there were more people on earth who desired their own happiness more than the unhappiness of others we would have a paradise ~ Bertrand Russell