Judge denies Guantanamo detainee’s bid for relief

A federal judge Monday denied an emergency motion for relief filed by a Guantanamo Bay prisoner on a hunger strike, despite pleas from the man’s lawyer who says his client is dying.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan ruled Monday that he didn’t have jurisdiction over the case filed by Yemeni prisoner Musaab al-Madhwani. Hogan pointed to a provision of the Military Commissions Act which bars judicial review of claims made by detained enemy combatants regarding their conditions of confinement.

The prisoner and others in the hunger strike originally claimed that they were being denied drinking water and that temperatures in the prison had been kept at “extremely frigid” levels — which the government denied. But the claim was expanded to include the allegation that Guantanamo officials had shown “deliberate indifference” to al-Madhwani’s serious medical needs.

Although the case was technically about just one detainee, it was clearly about the continued use of Guantanamo to house terrorism suspects, despite President Barack Obama’s promise to close the prison. When one of al-Madhwani’s lawyers, Darold Killmer, mentioned the alleged mistreatment of other detainees, Hogan responded, “This is not a class-action.”

At the end of the roughly one-hour hearing, Hogan noted that al-Madhwani voluntarily participated in the hunger strike, adding that the prisoner “self-manufactured” his health situation.

Earlier, Killmer told the judge, “Mr. al-Madhwani is dying.” Killmer pointed to an affidavit filed by Dr. Stephen N. Xenakis, a physician who interviewed the prisoner on the phone, who concluded that the prisoner’s “life may be in imminent danger.”

Xenakis wrote that after being treated with intravenous fluids following a collapse last week, the prisoner was placed in solitary confinement and has not received daily monitoring of his medical condition.

“Given the gravity of his condition, these failures constitute deliberate indifference to his obvious serious medical needs,” Xenakis wrote.

Killmer claimed that putting him in solitary confinement was “retaliation” against al-Madhwani for participating in the hunger strike.

But the judge raised jurisdiction issues from the get-go. Killmer argued that a Supreme Court decision which established detainees’ constitutional right to challenge their confinement gave the judge jurisdiction in this case. If al-Madhwani dies, Killmer said, he doesn’t get to exercise that right.

But Justice Department lawyer Ronald Wiltsie said that there have been hunger strikes before, and that no hunger striker ever died at Guantanamo. He said the government will step in to save al-Madhwani’s life. He also said the government doesn’t concede that anything was done to retaliate against al-Madhwani.

Lawyers for prisoners say the hunger strike began about Feb. 6 to protest the virtual halt in releases under Obama as well as what they say is a tightening of restrictions and intrusive searches of their Qurans. According to the lawyers, most of the 166 prisoners are participating in the hunger strike.