Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Padilla's Lawyers Say He Is Too Mentally Impaired To Stand Trial

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It's painful to read this and know that a man was tortured into insanity by my government:

Jose Padilla rocked back and forth during the meetings with a psychologist, his chained hands sweating and facial muscles twitching, and insisted repeatedly in a voice devoid of emotion that he was not crazy.

He is a bit paranoid and believes the government is persecuting him, "but this does not appear to be delusional," wrote one of doctors who examined the alleged al Qaeda operative in a Miami prison cell at his lawyers' request.

Padilla's case, now set for trial in April, has tested the limits of presidential authority and raised questions about whether the fight against terrorism trumps the basic rights of U.S. citizens.

Arrested in May 2002 and accused by the Bush administration of planning to explode a radioactive bomb, Padilla was held without trial for 3 1/2 years in a military prison. Last year, he was sent into the federal justice system, the "dirty bomber" accusation quietly dropped and a lesser charge of supporting terrorism brought against him instead.

His lawyers said in court papers that 1,307 days of extreme isolation, abuse and interrogation in a U.S. military prison had left the 36-year-old American too mentally impaired to stand trial for aiding Islamist terrorists in the Middle East, eastern Europe and Africa. They want the charges dropped.

U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke gave prison doctors until February 9 to conduct their own mental exam of Padilla. The prosecution rejects claims that Padilla was mistreated.

Yet court documents paint a harrowing picture of his detention at the U.S. Naval Consolidated Brig in Charleston, South Carolina, where the Padilla was held without charge as an "enemy combatant" by order of President George W. Bush.

Padilla was kept in a 9-by-7-foot (3-by-2-metre) cell, the lone occupant in a two-story, 10-unit block, defense lawyer Andrew Patel wrote in an affidavit. The windows were blocked so no light could enter and meals, often cold, were delivered through a slot in the door, Patel said.

Interrogators ordered his pillow and foam mattress removed, forcing Padilla to sleep on a bare steel platform.

Padilla was kept without a clock, calendar or reading material, sometimes for long periods in darkness, and other times for long periods under bright light. He was subjected to extreme cold, deprived of sleep, chained in painful positions and drugged with what he believed to be "truth serum," the documents alleged.

"I have been advised that his cell was electronically monitored and that Mr. Padilla had no contact with other human beings," Patel wrote.
For the first two years, he was not allowed to speak with a lawyer nor send or receive mail, except for a brief note sent to his mother in Florida through the International Committee of the Red Cross.

When Patel was first allowed to visit his client in March 2004, the brig staff told him that Padilla "was so docile and inactive that his behavior was like that of a piece of furniture," Patel wrote.

Nonetheless photos introduced in the court case showed that when Padilla was taken to see a dentist, he was shackled at the hands and feet, wearing blackout goggles and earmuffs, and escorted by guards whose faces were hidden by riot helmets.

Padilla, a former gang member who converted to Islam and moved to Egypt after serving time for firing a gun during a traffic dispute, was arrested at Chicago's O'Hare Airport as he returned from Pakistan in May 2002.

Then-Attorney General John Ashcroft said his arrest had disrupted a plot to explode "a radioactive dirty bomb."

Padilla was never charged in any bomb plot but was turned over to civilian custody last year. He was indicted on the current charges in 2005 while a challenge to his indefinite detention was before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Doctors who examined Padilla for the defense concluded he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, compounded by years of isolation. He has memory lapses, is unable to put events in chronological order, refuses to look at tapes of his interrogation sessions and "becomes visibly terrified" when asked to do so, they wrote.

Padilla believes his captors will send him back to the brig regardless of the outcome of the trial, the doctors said. In fact, the Bush administration contends it can do exactly that.

The doctors do not believe Padilla is faking mental illness. He speaks in a monotone and tries to hide his anxiety, they wrote.

"He is terrified that anyone will consider him mentally ill or crazy," wrote Dr. Angela Hegarty, a forensic psychiatrist who examined him.

Prosecutors emphatically dispute that Padilla was mistreated but even if the allegations were true, they said in court documents, "He is not entitled to a free pass from his own criminal conduct."

This is what evil looks like, folks. There is no "criminal conduct." If there were, the government would have charged him with something. They didn't. And they kept him in solitary confinement, in a tiny cell, with literally no human contact outside of the guards, not permitting him any activity that might give some relief from his suffering -- like writing or reading material -- for three and a half years, and counting. And the prosecutors say that is not mistreatment? Actually, they're right. It's not mistreatment. It's torture, illegal under both domestic and international law.

I don't believe in the concept of a place called hell that waits for evildoers after they die. But if such a place did exist, those prosecutors and Alberto Gonzales, Dick Cheney, and George W. Bush, would deserve to spend eternity in it.

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