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Homeland Security

American Forces Press Service

Commission Decides Detention Status For Detainee

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

NAVAL STATION GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba, April 27, 2006 The presiding officer in the military commissions case of a suspected Algerian terrorist here yesterday denied a defense motion to move the detainee back to a medium-security facility from the maximum-security facility he was moved to a month ago.

Navy Capt. Daniel O'Toole ruled that the movement of Sufyian Barhoumi was not done as punishment, but was part of a larger plan to reorganize the entire prison camp and was done for the safety and security of the detainee.

Barhoumi, who is accused of being an explosives trainer for al Qaeda, was moved March 30 from Camp 4, the camp for highly compliant detainees, to Camp 5, a maximum-security facility that separates detainees in concrete cells and gives them less recreation time. A Joint Task Force Guantanamo official who testified in today's hearing said the move was done primarily for Barhoumi's safety as he entered precommission status and could have faced threats from other detainees for his cooperation.

"The real baseline for my whole motivation in everything is running a peaceful, safe and secure camp," the official, who was only identified as "Col. B," said. "I feel strongly that I have him in the best place to ensure his safety during this process."

Barhoumi was moved as part of a new plan that houses all precommission detainees away from the rest of the camp population, Col. B said. Nine of the 10 detainees who have been charged under the military commissions are currently housed in Camp 5. The other precommission detainee is housed in another location for operational reasons, Col. B said.

The decision to house precommission detainees separately was made partly because of an entire camp reorganization that will maximize the use of living space and the guard force, Col. B said. Also important are security concerns when detainees are preparing for military commissions, he said. Col. B said he relied on two Army regulations and the 3rd Geneva Convention in creating the segregation policy for precommission detainees.

The defense argued that the move to Camp 5 damaged Barhoumi's physical and psychological condition and interfered with the attorney-client relationship. In a first for the military commissions process, Barhoumi took the stand and testified for nearly an hour about the move and the effect it had on him.

Barhoumi, who is missing most of his left hand, said the water faucets and toilets in Camp 5 are hard for him to use and limited time in the sun causes his hand to hurt, because it has poor circulation and gets cold easily. In Camp 4, which is a communal living environment, Barhoumi said that friends helped him use the faucets and wash clothes.

Col. B said that Barhoumi's detailed defense counsel, Army Capt. Wade Faulkner, brought him a complaint about the sink in Barhoumi's cell in Camp 5 a little less than a month ago. The sink was modified the next morning, he said.

Barhoumi also testified that the move to Camp 5 took him by surprise and caused him to doubt Faulkner, because he thought he was being punished for cooperating in the commissions process.

"I had already started to build some trust with my attorney," Barhoumi said. "However, I started to lose that trust because I did not know what was going on and I was surprised."

The procedures for detainee meetings with defense counsel are the same in Camp 4 and Camp 5, Col. B testified. Detainees in Camp 5 are given as many opportunities to meet with counsel as other detainees are, and all meetings happen in the same place, he said.

Through questioning, the prosecution established that Barhoumi had sufficient time to prepare for his commission session today and the move didn't impair Barhoumi's ability to participate in his defense.

In his ruling, O'Toole said the move of Barhoumi was clearly not done as punishment, but was part of an over-arching plan and was done in the interest of safety and security.

O'Toole also found that there was no change in the detainee's access to counsel. While it is understandable that Barhoumi is upset about losing some of his freedom, O'Toole said, security and order are legitimate concerns that justify the move.

Today was Barhoumi's second commissions hearing. The first, on March 2, was cut short because of a defense request for Barhoumi to call his family in Algeria after learning his father had died.

According to the charges against him, Barhoumi attended an electronics and explosive course in 1998 at an al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist camp in Afghanistan. After completing his training, Barhoumi became an explosives trainer for al Qaeda, training members on electronically controlled explosives at remote locations, according to the charges.

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