US Court Grants Motion on Gitmo Suspect

The Associated Press
Tuesday, December 11, 2007; 9:57 PM

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- A federal court on Tuesday ordered the U.S. government to preserve any evidence of torture while it weighs a defense motion in the case of a Guantanamo prisoner who alleges he was abused in overseas CIA prisons.

Attorneys for Majid Khan, the only U.S. resident among 15 so-called "high-value" detainees, had argued that evidence of harsh interrogation techniques is critical to their client establishing he has no ties to al-Qaida.

A U.S. appeals court said it ordered the preservation of evidence so that it can have "sufficient opportunity to consider the merits of the motion" by the defense seeking a ruling on preserving evidence in Khan's case. It should not be construed as a ruling on the motion's merits, the court said in its written order.

Wells Dixon, who represents Khan as a lawyer with the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, welcomed the order by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

"The order is significant because the D.C. circuit would have no reason to issue interim relief, by its own initiative, if it were absolutely certain that no torture evidence would be lost or destroyed before the preservation motion is fully briefed and decided on the merits," Dixon said in an e-mail.

It was not clear when the defense motion would be decided by the federal court.

The defense motion was filed prior to last week's announcement that the CIA had destroyed videotapes of the interrogations of two top terror suspects.

Khan, a 1999 graduate of a Baltimore-area high school, was seized in Pakistan in March 2003 and held until last year in secret CIA custody. In September 2006, U.S. authorities transferred him and other high-value detainees to Guantanamo, where they may be charged and face prosecution under a new military tribunal system.

After hearing Khan's account of his time in CIA custody, his attorneys sought the court order for the government to preserve evidence of torture.

Khan, the only U.S. resident among 15 so-called high-value detainees, described the alleged abuse in October during his first meetings with attorneys at the U.S. naval base in Cuba. Dixon has not disclosed the details of his client's allegations.

A CIA spokesman has denied allegations that it tortured Khan or any others as part of its terror interrogation effort that began in 2002.

The U.S. has alleged that Khan plotted attacks in the U.S. and Pakistan with one of the group's most dangerous operatives, Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, including a plan to bomb American gas stations.

© 2007 The Associated Press