Thursday, October 19, 2006

Shut up or else, military tells Guantanamo lawyers

Carol Williams in Miami

THE US Marine Corps has threatened to punish two military lawyers if they continue to speak publicly about reported prisoner abuse at Guantanamo Bay, a civilian colleague has said.

The threat to Lieutenant-Colonel Colby Vokey and Sergeant Heather Cerveny follows their report that guards bragged about beating prisoners, said Muneer Ahmad, a law professor at American University in Washington who helps in the defence of a Canadian suspect.

The order has heightened fears among the military defenders of Guantanamo prisoners that their careers will suffer for exposing flaws and injustices in the system, Professor Ahmad said at the weekend.

"In one fell swoop, the Government is gagging a defence lawyer and threatening retaliation against a whistleblower," he said. "It really points out what is wrong with the detainee legislation that Bush is scheduled to sign on Tuesday: it permits the abuse of detainees to continue, immunises the wrongdoers and precludes the detainees from ever challenging it in court."

The Marine Corps said the gag had been ordered to ensure the legal team's actions complied with professional standards. "The chief defence counsel of the Marine Corps, as Lieutenant-Colonel Vokey's direct supervisor, has directed him not to communicate with the media on this case pending her review of the facts," said First Lieutenant Blanca Binstock, of the corps' public affairs office.

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