A Guan­tanamo first: a hos­pi­tal bed for al-Qaida sus­pect

The Buffalo News - - FRONT PAGE - By Carol Rosen­berg MI­AMI HER­ALD

GUAN­TANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba – Mil­i­tary judges have made cer­tain ac­com­mo­da­tions to ac­cused war crim­i­nals here. But Fri­day, for the first time, the mil­i­tary placed a hos­pi­tal bed in­side the court.

Troops moved the stan­dard style hos­pi­tal bed from the prison to the war court at Camp Jus­tice. Then they brought an al­leged al-Qaida war crim­i­nal to court in an am­bu­lance for a brief pre­trial hear­ing, which strad­dled a two-hour re­cess to let the Iraqi cap­tive sleep off painkillers.

Abd al Hadi al Iraqi un­der­went five spine surg­eries in eight months at Guan­tanamo, start­ing in Septem­ber 2017, and has rarely made it to court since. A new judge in the case, Marine Lt. Col. Michael Li­bretto, at­tempted to hold a hear­ing Tues­day but had to re­cess af­ter just 30 min­utes when the cap­tive suf­fered back spasms that im­paired his breath­ing. He was med­i­cated with mul­ti­ple opi­ates and then taken to the prison acute care unit.

On Fri­day, Li­bretto got through the ba­sics of a new-judge hear­ing: Let­ting de­fense lawyers ques­tion him on his back­ground to probe for pos­si­ble bias be­fore the judge, based in Par­ris Is­land, S.C., de­clared him­self con­flict­free and ca­pa­ble of pre­sid­ing in the case.

First, how­ever, he asked al Hadi how he was do­ing. “I feel like my head is go­ing to ex­plode, my en­tire body is strained and stretched,” the cap­tive, 57, replied about 10 min­utes into the hear­ing from a cush­ioned re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion chair. Be­fore it started he was up­right in the hos­pi­tal bed, wear­ing a white prison uni­form, skull­cap and hos­pi­tal socks but moved to the chair for the pro­ceed­ing. Then, at Minute 18, de­fense lawyers de­clared a spasm was start­ing and the judge re­cessed.

Al Hadi used a walker to get back to the hos­pi­tal bed, a few steps away, and lay down.

A Navy Corps­man who was watch­ing from the cur­tained-off vic­tims sec­tion of the spec­ta­tors’ gallery grabbed his field kit, and went in­side. An Army ma­jor whose spe­cialty is psy­chi­a­try was also on hand as treat­ing physi­cian. The court was re­cessed for more than two and half hours, dur­ing which U.S. troops ush­ered out ob­servers to dim the lights and let al Hadi sleep off the opi­ates – a Per­coset be­fore court and a Val­ium at the re­cess.

Hadi, cap­tured a decade ago in Turkey, is ac­cused of di­rect­ing and pay­ing in­sur­gents to carry out at­tacks on U.S. and al­lied troops and civil­ians in the post 9/11 in­va­sion of Afghanistan.

The war crimes hear­ings have gone on for more than a decade.

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