Torture Made 9/11 Defendant Delusional, Psychotic: Panel

Judge will rule on whether he can still stand trial
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 21, 2023 2:30 AM CDT
Torture Made 9/11 Defendant Psychotic, Panel Finds
FILE - In this April 17, 2019, photo, reviewed by U.S. military officials, the control tower is seen through the razor wire inside the Camp VI detention facility in Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

A military medical panel has concluded that one of the five 9/11 defendants held at the Guantanamo Bay naval base has been rendered delusional and psychotic by the torture he underwent years ago while in CIA custody, the AP reports. The findings heighten uncertainty over whether Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who has long complained he was under attack by invisible rays at Guantanamo, will stand trial. A military judge, Col. Matthew McCall, is expected to rule as soon as Thursday whether al-Shibh's mental issues render him incompetent to take part in the proceedings against him.

Defense lawyers argue that the best hope of al-Shibh, a Yemeni accused of organizing one cell of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers, regaining competency to stand trial is a step that some Americans are likely to find distasteful: for him to be provided with post-torture trauma care and no longer subject to solitary confinement. Al-Shibh's newly disclosed diagnosis—post-traumatic stress disorder with secondary psychotic features—is the latest development to show how the George W. Bush administration's approval of abusive interrogation of alleged al-Qaeda attackers is complicating US efforts to try the men more than two decades later. On Wednesday, al-Shibh's lead attorney, David Bruck, told the courtroom that the diagnosis is creating "a moment of truth" and an opportunity for the country to take into account the harm that was done by allowing torture.

On Sept. 6, the White House said President Biden had declined to approve or deny demands presented by defense lawyers in plea negotiations to settle the case. They were seeking guarantees that all five men would get care for the physical and mental damage of their torture, and would be spared solitary confinement going forward. Biden was unsettled about accepting terms for the plea from those responsible for the deadliest assault on the United States since Pearl Harbor, an anonymous White House National Security Council official said. (Much more here.)

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