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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