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US judge: No release of Guantanamo detainee photos

September 13, 2013

NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. government does not have to release photographs and dozens of videotapes of a Saudi citizen detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in the investigation of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, a judge ruled Friday. The judge concluded they do not depict illegal conduct, evidence of mistreatment or potential sources of governmental embarrassment.

Authorities have said Mohammed al-Qahtani narrowly missed being the 20th hijacker when he was denied entry into the U.S. at a Florida airport a month before the attacks. Charges against him were dropped.

The Center for Constitutional Rights sued the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice and the Central Intelligence Agency last year, saying the release of videotapes and photographs of his harsh interrogation were in the public interest.

Testimony and court submissions have accused the FBI and military personnel of subjecting al-Qahtani to “intense isolation” and “aggressive” interrogation techniques from August 2002 to November 2002, including the use of a snarling dog, stripping him naked in the presence of a woman and repeatedly pouring water on his head.

Attorneys seeking release of the videotapes say al-Qahtani lost significant weight and showed symptoms of “extreme psychological trauma” that included talking to non-existent people, reporting hearing voices and crouching in a corner of his cell covered with a sheet for long periods

But a U.S. District judge, who reviewed a government summary of the videotapes, said the images were properly classified secret by the government because it was “both logical and plausible that extremists would utilize images of al-Qahtani” to incite anti-American sentiment, to raise funds and to recruit other loyalists.

Shayana Kadidal, senior managing attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, said the center “almost certainly” will appeal. He called the ruling “very disappointing.”

The government did not immediately comment.

Al-Qahtani was captured by Pakistani forces on Dec. 15, 2001 and turned over to the United States. Two months later, he was taken to Guantanamo, where he remains.

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