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Suspected '20th hijacker' recants evidence on Gitmo detainees obtained by torture

[JURIST] Mohammed al-Qahtani, the so-called "20th hijacker" from the Sept. 11 attacks, has disclaimed information he provided about 30 Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees, alleging that the statements were coerced by torture, TIME magazine reported Friday. Qahtani was refused entry into the US in August 2001 and was later captured in Afghanistan; he has since been held at Guantanamo Bay, where Pentagon officials say he admitted to being sent to the US to participate in the attacks. During questioning by US intelligence, Qahtani implicated 30 fellow detainees [interrogation log, PDF] as having connections to al Qaeda. The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights [advocacy website] is now representing Qahtani, and lawyer Gitanjali S. Gutierrez told TIME that Qahtani made false statements "to please his interrogators" after enduring months of torture and abuse.

By repudiating the information, Qahtani calls into question evidence considered by Combatant Status Review Tribunals [DOD materials] that appeared to justify the 30 detainees' incarceration. Several challenges to the detention of "enemy combatants" at Guantanamo and elsewhere are pending, and there have been other allegations of information extracted through torture and coercion at the facility. The US Supreme Court [official website] has ruled that detainees held by the US anywhere in the world should be allowed to challenge their detention in federal courts. Congress, however, passed the Detainee Treatment Act [JURIST document] in December 2005, which limits Guantanamo detainees' access to federal courts. The constitutionality of the new law has not yet been ruled on by the courts. Adam Zagorin of TIME Magazine has more.

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