In a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay, information about the imprisonment and interrogation methods used on the defendants remains classified "Top Secret," prompting their defense attorneys and others to argue that the secrecy requirements undermine the defendants' right to a fair trial. Documents relating to the capture of the detainees and their transfer to secret overseas prisons are also among the items lawyers may not share with the defendants unless the documents are reclassified as "disclosable," Reuters news agency reported. Rules governing the proceedings, now in the subject of pre-trial hearings, place other topics off limits, including "historical perspectives on jihadist activities" and "groups engaged in terrorist activities." Since the accused are alleged al-Qaeda terrorists, the restrictions pertain to material and information relevant to their defense, lawyers contend.
"It's sort of an illusory idea, which is that we are going to give you a lawyer but you're not going to be able to talk about the central thing that is important for you to talk about with a lawyer," said David Nevin, one of the lawyers for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001. The chief prosecutor disputed that interpretation.
"They can talk to their clients about anything," Brigadier General Mark Martins told Reuters. "What they can't do is take a document that may have classified information related to sources and methods and — unless it is cleared as disclosable to the client — they can't show them that document."
That and other restrictions compromise the attorney-client privilege recognized in civilian courts, the lawyers say. While most of them live in the Washington, D.C. area, they are not allowed to talk to their Guantanamo clients by phone. And they say they won't send their clients mail until prison inspectors agree not to read it. Prosecutors, meanwhile, will not turn over 75,000 pages of evidence to the defense attorneys until the judge, Army Colonel James Pohl, issues protective orders aimed at safeguarding the material.
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Photo of Guantanamo: AP Images