US interrogator says it's fully torture as Guantanamo hearings resume

"I fully believe it's torture. Unfortunately, I took part in it," former U.S. Army interrogator Damien Corsetti told journalists as he prepared to board a flight to Guantanamo.

US interrogator says it's fully torture as Guantanamo hearings resume

Corsetti was called as a defense witness in a week of pretrial hearings scheduled to start on Monday in the special tribunals at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Many of the participants expect President-elect Obama will halt the proceedings shortly after taking office on Tuesday.

Obama has said he will close the prison camp that has become a symbol of abuse and detention without charge, and believes the trials should be moved to regular U.S. courts. In the meantime, it's business as usual.

"We're going to court on Monday," said Army Col. Larry Morris, the chief prosecutor for the Guantanamo tribunals. "We don't know what's going to happen so we have to be prepared to litigate."

If Corsetti makes it to the witness stand, he will describe interrogation practices at the Bagram air force base in Afghanistan, where Canadian youth Omar Khadr was questioned dozens of times before being sent to Guantanamo in 2002.

Khadr's lawyers expect Corsetti's testimony to bolster their defense that Khadr was tortured and coerced into giving self-incriminating statements at Bagram and later at Guantanamo.

They want a judge to ban the use of the statements as evidence against Khadr, who was 15 when he was kidnapped in Afghanistan.

Corsetti interrogated Khadr at least once, as Khadr lay in bed recovering from the bullets U.S. soldiers fired into his back.

During a 2005 investigation into the abuse and death of prisoners at Bagram, Corsetti himself was charged with dereliction of duty, maltreatment, assault and performing an indecent act with another person.

He was cleared of all the charges in 2006. Shortly before boarding the flight to Guantanamo on Saturday, he told reporters he absolutely believes what happened at Bagram was torture but did not elaborate on his statement that he took part in it.

He raised his pant leg to show a tattoo on his calf, a depiction of the Statue of Liberty holding a gun to her own head, leaving his audience to draw their own metaphors.

But before the Guantanamo court gets to debating the torture issue, it will first have to decide whether new arraignments are needed for Khadr and five other prisoners scheduled for hearings this week.

The Bush administration appointee overseeing the tribunals quietly dropped charges in all pending cases in December and refiled them in early January. It was a technical procedure aimed at updating the jury pools that were first assigned years ago, Morris said.

The judges hearing cases this week will have to decide what the rules are, a perpetual issue since the first Guantanamo tribunals convened in August 2004.

Khadr's lawyer, Navy Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler, predicted the debate wouldn't get far before Obama pulls the plug, based on public statements made by Obama's transition team.

"It would utterly shock me if this process continues on into Thursday or Friday," Kuebler said. "To me it's the beginning of cleaning up this mess."


Reuters

Last Mod: 19 Ocak 2009, 12:31
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