Archive for Sunday, October 15, 2006

Paralegal, lawyer told to stop speaking about alleged Guantanamo abuse

October 15, 2006

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— A paralegal and a military lawyer who brought forward allegations about prisoner abuse at the Guantanamo Bay detention center have been ordered not to speak with the press, lawyers and a military spokeswoman said Saturday.

Marine Lt. Col. Colby Vokey, who represents a detainee at the U.S. naval base in eastern Cuba, filed a complaint with the Pentagon last week alleging that abuse was ongoing at the prison. He attached a sworn statement from his paralegal, Sgt. Heather Cerveny, in which she said several Guantanamo guards bragged in a bar about beating detainees, describing it as common practice.

Muneer Ahmad, a civilian defense attorney for Omar Khadr, a Canadian detainee whose military counsel is Vokey, said that Vokey and Cerveny were ordered Friday by the U.S. Marines not to speak with the press.

A spokeswoman for the Marines confirmed the order, saying Vokey's supervisor - Col. Carol Joyce, the Marines' chief defense counsel - had directed him not to communicate with the media "pending her review of the facts."

"This is necessary to ensure all actions of counsel are in compliance with regulations establishing professional standards for military attorneys," the spokeswoman, 1st Lt. Blanca E. Binstock, said in a statement.

Reached by telephone, Vokey declined to comment, saying, "I can't even talk about it." When asked if he was going to abide by the order for the time being, he said, "Yes."

Telephone calls placed to Cerveny and a Pentagon spokesman were not immediately returned.

Ahmad said Vokey was also barred from talking to the media about anything related to the military commissions - tribunals set up to try detainees.

Cerveny, 23, visited Guantanamo last month and has said she spent an hour with the guards at the military club. She said the guards stopped discussing beating detainees after finding out that she works for a detainee's legal team.

"It was a general consensus that I (detected) that as a group this is something they did. That this was OK at Guantanamo, that this is how the detainees get treated," Cerveny said in a telephone interview Thursday.

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