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Motion Filed Questioning Brutal Conditions of Al-Marri Confinement

Brennan Center asked a U.S. District Court to order the government to redress the prolonged isolation and inhuman treatment of a U.S. resident who is being held at the navy brig in South Carolina. The motion raises fundamental questions about so-called “enemy combatants” and the laws that should govern their detention.

March 13, 2008
For Imme­di­ate Release:
March 13, 2008

Susan Lehman, 212–998–6318
Mike Webb, 212–998–6746
Jonathan Hafetz, 917–355–6896

Bren­nan Center Ques­tions Brutal Confine­ment Condi­tions of
U.S. Resid­ent Who Has Not Been Tried Or Charged With A Crime

Today, the Bren­nan Center for Justice asked a U.S. District Court in South Caro­lina to order the govern­ment to redress the prolonged isol­a­tion and inhu­man treat­ment of a U.S. resid­ent who is being held at the navy brig in South Caro­lina. The motion raises funda­mental ques­tions about so-called “enemy combatants” and the laws that should govern their deten­tion.

The request came in response to the often brutal deten­tion of Ali Saleh Kahlah Almarri, who is being held in contin­ued isol­a­tion and denied contact with his wife and chil­dren.  The New York Times repor­ted today that the Depart­ment of Defense had video­taped inter­rog­a­tions of Almarri that show him being “manhandled by his inter­rog­at­ors” and that the people “dispens­ing the rough treat­ment on the tape were F.B.I. agents.”

The Bren­nan Center’s motion (Almarri v. Gates) alleges Almar­ri’s condi­tions are harm­ing his health and “endan­ger­ing what remains of his psycho­lo­gical resi­li­ence, and jeop­ard­iz­ing his abil­ity to parti­cip­ate mean­ing­fully in his legal defense.”  Mr. Almarri has been held at the brig – without charge or trial – for nearly five years.

In a sworn declar­a­tion that accom­pan­ied the filing, Dr. Stuart Gras­sian, an expert on the effects of prolonged solit­ary confine­ment, said “During the course of my profes­sional exper­i­ence, I have eval­u­ated quite a large number of indi­vidu­als incar­cer­ated in solit­ary confine­ment, but have only very uncom­monly encountered an indi­vidual whose confine­ment was as oner­ous as Mr. Almar­ri’s.” Dr. Gras­sian added that Mr. Almarri “clearly is suffer­ing quite profoundly from increas­ingly severe symp­toms related to his prolonged incar­cer­a­tion in solit­ary.”

“Mr. Almar­ri’s captiv­ity suggests some­thing out of a Kafka novel,” said Jonathan Hafetz, Litig­a­tion Director for the Bren­nan Center’s Liberty and National Secur­ity Project. “He is a human being, but the United States govern­ment has not treated him like one for the past several years. Instead, he is forced to endure condi­tions that are danger­ous, damaging, inhu­man and most of all un-Amer­ican. These condi­tions are espe­cially horrendous consid­er­ing that he has not been charged with a crime. We hope the Court will agree that his condi­tions of confine­ment are unac­cept­able and unlaw­ful and will order the U.S. govern­ment to improve them imme­di­ately.”

Mr. Almarri is the only person currently detained as an “enemy combatant” within the United States. After he was moved to the brig from civil­ian custody where he was await­ing trial almost five years ago, Mr. Almarri was held incom­mu­nic­ado and subjec­ted to a brutal inter­rog­a­tion regime. Mr. Almarri was forced to endure pain­ful stress posi­tions, threatened with viol­ence, and death, confined to a small cell which allowed no daylight to enter, preven­ted from prac­ti­cing his reli­gion, and denied adequate cloth­ing, recre­ation, books, news, hygienic items.

“This case repres­ents a dramatic depar­ture from basic Amer­ican prin­ciples of due process and fair treat­ment,” said Lawrence S. Lust­berg, a part­ner at Gibbons, P.C., who is one of the other attor­neys repres­ent­ing Mr. Almarri.

A separ­ate chal­lenge to the legal­ity of Mr. Almar­ri’s deten­tion itself is currently under review by the full Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and is likely headed to the Supreme Court. For a complete case history and further back­ground inform­a­tion, please visit Almarri v Pucciarelli. Dr. Gras­si­an’s expert affi­davit and today’s court filing are also avail­able at the Bren­nan Center website.

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