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Justice Department in contempt of court for not taping Gitmo hearing

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A federal district court judge ruled on Thursday that the Department of Justice was in contempt of court when it failed to videotape a Guantanamo detainee’s testimony last summer.

Mohammed al-Adahi, accused of belonging to a terrorist organization, had challenged his detention at Guantanamo Bay in front of Judge Gladys Kessler. In June, Kessler ordered the Justice Department to videotape al-Adahi’s tesimony for the court from the Guantanamo prison camp, edit out any classified information and hand the tape over to the court.

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After al-Adahi’s testimony, the government informed the court that, due to “miscommunication,” it had not videotaped the testimony. On Thursday Judge Kessler cited the department for contempt of court, reports the Washington Post.

Kessler ruled in August that the US government hadn’t proven its case against al-Adahi and ordered him released. The federal government quickly appealed that decision, and al-Adahi remains in Guantanamo.

“The purpose of the Court’s Order requiring the Government to videotape Petitioner’s testimony was to ensure the maximum amount of public accessibility to the judicial process,” Judge Kessler wrote in her ruling (PDF). “Thus, there are two other justifications for imposing sanctions against the Government: to minimize the damages to the public’s lost opportunity to observe an actual Guantanamo Bay trial … and to deter further noncompliance with court orders.”

As Daphne Eviatar notes at the Washington Independent, the judge’s contempt citation is a civil one, not a criminal one, so no one will be facing charges over the issue.

The Post reports:

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Kessler wrote that she had no evidence the Defense Department intentionally failed to tape the testimony. She ordered the government to submit a report explaining what measures it had taken to prevent future mistakes. She also wrote that a transcript of Adahi’s testimony would be posted on the court’s web site. The judge could pursue further sanctions if another such error occurs.


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