Judge blocks prosecutors from using Guantánamo Bay detainees' statements to FBI interrogators

Judge blocks prosecutors from using Guantánamo Bay detainees' statements to FBI interrogators
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A military commission judge ruled Friday that prosecutors can’t use statements made by Guantánamo Bay detainees to FBI interrogators after they were removed from a secret CIA prison.

The New York Times reported Friday that the prisoners made the statements to a FBI “clean team” after their release from the CIA black site more than a decade ago. The FBI agents were unaware of the detainees’ past statements and interrogations, but defense lawyers in the case argued that the interrogation still could have affected their statements.

As a result, the defense team had requested to investigate what happened to their clients while they were being held in the CIA prison, according to the newspaper.

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Prosectors had provided summaries of the actions and statements of guards and doctors in the prison. But the military judge, Col. James L. Pohl, ruled that summaries were not sufficient enough to be used in the case.

The Times reported that Pohl limited the defense lawyers from investigating the CIA but also blocked the detainees’ statements to the FBI from being used in the case.

Pohl ruled that the summaries “will not provide the defense with substantially the same ability to investigate, prepare and litigate motions to suppress the F.B.I. clean team statements” because the limits on the defense’s ability to interview witnesses “will not allow the defense to develop the particularity and nuance necessary to present a rich and vivid account of the 3-4 year period in C.I.A. custody the defense alleges constituted coercion,” according to the Times.

The ruling comes as a blow to prosecutors in their case against the detainees, who are accused of assisting in the 9/11 terror attacks.

Cmdr. Sarah Higgins of the Navy, a spokeswoman for the Office of Military Commissions, told the Times that officials would “let the rulings speak for themselves.”

James Connell, the attorney for defendant Ammar al-Baluchi, celebrated the decision to the Times.

“Witnesses are the foundation of the American criminal justice system,” he said. “If the government prohibits the defense from investigating witnesses, the proceeding becomes more like a play than a trial.”

The Times noted that the prosecutors are likely to appeal the ruling.