The prominent Boston law firm of Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale & Dorr has filed a historic suit in federal district court on behalf of six Algerian detainees who were captured in Bosnia and are still held at the facility in Guantánamo. The firm filed suit, reports the Boston Globe, after all of its FOIA requests for medical requests were denied.

A Guantanamo Bay detainee said a beating by guards at the US military prison left his face partially paralyzed and one of his fingers broken, according to a lawsuit to be filed today in federal court in Boston.

The complaint will ask a judge to order the military to hand over documents about its treatment of six Guantanamo detainees arrested in Bosnia, including medical and psychiatric records. It is the first Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed in connection with detention challenges, marking a new tactic in piercing the veil of secrecy that surrounds ”enemy combatants” at the prison.

Update [2005-4-14 8:29:13 by susanhbu]: WaPo says the suit demands tapes of beatings …

Cross-posted at DailyKos . . . more below . . .
Update [2005-4-14 14:19:23 by susanhbu]: Thanks to The Maven, we now have a complete copy of today’s filing.

Update [2005-4-14 8:29:13 by susanhbu]: From today’s Washington Post:

The lawsuit, filed by his attorneys in federal court in Boston, alleges that the government has probably videotaped Idr’s beatings and demands that it produce any such tapes and all records of alleged torture and interrogation tactics at the detention facility. 

The military videotaped the work of teams of prison guards responsible for quelling disturbances by detainees and created written summaries of the material on the tapes. More than two dozen detainees have alleged in declassified accounts given to their attorneys that the teams’ real purpose was to force them to confess or cooperate with interrogators.

The “severe abuse at the hands of Guantanamo guards,” reports the The NewStandard, included:

“severe beatings resulting in facial paralysis for one prisoner, chemical irritant gassing, near suffocation by repeatedly ramming a prisoner’s head into a toilet, and religious persecution by forced removal of clothing required for prayer.”

The New York Times says that the lawsuit, “filed on behalf of Mustafa Ait Idir, an Algerian, is based on accounts that he gave his American lawyer on a recent visit to Guantánamo, in Cuba”:

Mr. Idir’s lawyers said he told them that sometime in the spring of 2004 he was forcibly removed from his cell and that while he was shackled and lying on the ground, a guard jumped on his head. As a result, the suit said, Mr. Idir apparently suffered a stroke and has one side of his face paralyzed.

The lawyer’s accounts form the basis of a federal suit in Boston that asks the Defense Department to release medical records that might corroborate Mr. Idir’s account.

This morning’s Boston Globe offers further details on the abuse:

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usAccording to a draft of the complaint obtained by the Globe, Idir alleges he faced torture at Guantanamo: Guards once held his face under water in his cell’s hole-in-floor toilet and flooded his mouth with a hose, making him feel like he was drowning. He was handcuffed at the time, he said.

Another time, the complaint said, guards harassed prisoners on religious grounds by forcing them to give up their pants so they could not pray according to Muslim custom, which requires that worshipers be fully covered. Idir refused to disrobe and struggled with guards, who tear-gassed him. Eventually he was put in handcuffs, after which a guard bent his finger until it broke.

On a third occasion, the complaint said, guards twisted his right hand while he was handcuffed, dislocating the middle finger and thumb. They also pinned him down on gravel and jumped on his head, causing stones to cut the right side of his face and leaving a scar near his eye.

This incident precipitated an apparent stroke,” the complaint alleged. ”He experiences head pain, and the left side of his face was paralyzed for months. Only one of his eyes blinked . . . He could not eat normally, food and drink leaked from his non-functioning mouth.” 

CAPTION, PHOTO ABOVE RIGHT: “Bosnian Mustafa Ait Idir, shown in an undated photograph provided by his attorneys, was handed over to United States troops in Bosnia in 2002 after being ordered released by Bosnia’s highest court, according to Ait Idir’s lawyers April 13, 2005. Lawyers for Ait Idir and five other Bosnian detainees being held by the US at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba filed a new federal lawsuit April 13, 2005 in Boston against the United States government accusing the Departments of Defense and Justice of refusing to release information on severe torture at Guantanamo Bay.” (Yahoo/Reuters)

”We’ve been asking for this information since September,” said attorney Stephen Oleskey, a former Massachusetts deputy attorney general in an interview with the Boston Globe.

”It bears on their conditions of confinement and their mental and physical well-being. The government has made no effort to give it to us despite the fact that federal law requires it be promptly provided, and thus we have no alternative but to go to court.”

How the Boston attorneys got involved, and details on the charges against the Algerians:

The complaint centers on Mustafa Ait Idir, an Algerian who was arrested in Bosnia in October 2001. Idir was interviewed in February of this year during a trip to Guantanamo by two Boston attorneys, Oleskey and Rob Kirsch, who took on the case of six Algerians suspected of conspiring to blow up the US embassy in Sarajevo. The United States brought the six to Guantanamo after Bosnian courts dismissed charges against them for lack of evidence.

Bosnian courts dismissed the charges. The United States then transferred them to Guantanamo. Got it.

As the Al-Jazeera story points out, “The cases of the six Algerian detainees have attracted attention because they were captured far from Afghanistan and Pakistan, where most Guantanamo detainees were arrested.” This is perhaps another instance of rendition, not unlike the case of the sheik nabbed off the streets of Milan, Italy and “rendered” to Egypt for interrogation and torture. It’s not clear from the news stories if the Algerians were voluntarily turned over to U.S. authorities.

One of the attorneys for Ait Idir further says:

According to Kirsch, Idir is a computer technician, family man, and athlete who had been on both the Algerian and Bosnian national karate teams.

”Even if you assume that [Idir’s karate expertise] would justify [guards] being cautious, in the two instances in which his fingers were broken and dislocated, by the time that happened he was entirely subdued and his hands were manacled,” the lawyer said.

Oleskey said his clients had been working for Middle East-based charities in Bosnia for at least six years at the time of their arrest. All are married and have children. Their ages range from late 30s to early 40s.

Idir’s case was mentioned in the now-famous ruling by US District Judge Joyce Hens Green in January 2005, “who ruled that the military had failed to give detainees a proper chance to challenge their imprisonment.”

From a transcript of a military hearing held for Idir, Green quoted an exchange in which Idir denied that he planned to attack the embassy or knew an Al Qaeda member. He asked to know the name of the alleged terrorist so he could further defend himself. But the tribunal was unable to provide it.

”I was hoping you had evidence you could give me,” Idir said. ”If I was in your place — and I apologize in advance for these words — but if a supervisor came to me and showed me accusations like these, I would take these accusations and I would hit him in the face with them. Sorry about that.”

Everyone in the room laughed. Green was less amused: ”The laughter reflected in the transcript is understandable, and this exchange might have been truly humorous had the consequences of the detainee’s ‘enemy combatant’ status not been so terribly serious and had the detainee’s criticism not been so piercingly accurate,” she wrote.

Perhaps Tom DeLay, in comparing the 1994 “Contract with America” to the Magna Carta — and his cohorts Alberto Gonzales, George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and Condi Rice — might recall that one of the most historic, most critical provisions of the Magna Carta was the concept of habeas corpus.

Emphases mine.

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