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Federal judge rules Padilla military prison staff must testify in competency hearing

[JURIST] US District Judge Marcia Cooke [official profile] ruled Friday that US military lawyer, prison doctors and staff must testify at a hearing next week concerning the treatment of Jose Padilla [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] while under military custody. Cooke determined that because the US Bureau of Prisons [official website] evaluation that concluded Padilla was fit to stand trial [JURIST report] partially relied on a psychiatrist's conversations with military prison doctors and staff, their testimony was relevant for the court to determine Padilla's mental competency. Anthony Natale, one of Padilla's lawyers, told Reuters that most of the doctors and staff have refused or have been denied permission to speak with defense lawyers. Natale also said two years of medical records maintained while Padilla was under military custody were missing.

Padilla, a US citizen, was arrested in 2002 at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and subsequently detained as an "enemy combatant" [JURIST news archive] at a Navy military brig in Charleston, South Carolina. Padilla, initially accused of planning to set off a radioactive "dirty bomb" [NRC factsheet] in the United States, was finally charged [JURIST report] in November 2005 on unrelated counts. He was transferred to civilian custody [JURIST report] in January 2006 and has pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to the charges. In December 2006, Padilla's defense team filed a motion seeking a competency hearing [JURIST report] to determine whether he should stand trial after evaluations by a psychiatrist and clinical psychologist suggested that Padilla is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder from his years in detention, which is affecting his ability to assist in his defense. Reuters has more.

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