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DOJ seeking additional restrictions on Guantanamo lawyer-detainee contact

[JURIST] Lawyers visiting Afghan detainee Haji Bismullah [Wikipedia profile] at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] should be subject to tightened restrictions [proposed protective order, PDF], including limited access to their client and evidence, the US Justice Department has urged in court papers [motion, PDF; brief, PDF] filed with the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Under the DOJ proposal, lawyers would only be allowed to visit the detainee once in order to obtain authorization for legal representation, lawyers would be permitted only three visits with their current client, and mail sent to Bismullah from his lawyers would be subject to review by intelligence officers and military lawyers not involved in the prosecution of the detainee's case. Under current rules, there is no limit on lawyer-detainee visits and mail is only searched for contraband, but is not read. The DOJ has also requested that government officials be allowed to deny Bismullah's lawyers access to classified evidence used during Combatant Status Review Tribunals [DOD materials] to determine whether Bismullah should be classified as an "enemy combatant."

The Justice Department said that the new restrictions are necessary because lawyers have "caused unrest" at Guantanamo, such as hunger strikes [JURIST report] and other protests, have provided detainees with information about events outside the prison, and have provided media outlets information from detainees. Military officials seized legal papers [JURIST report] from Australian detainee David Hicks as part of its investigation into several detainee suicides at Guantanamo last year, and the DOJ later told a US court that paper provided by lawyers may have aided the suicide plot. The papers seized include notes marked "privileged attorney-client material" and suggest that detainees were misusing the attorney-client communication system [JURIST reports] in what Guantanamo commander Rear Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr. labeled acts of "asymmetric warfare." The federal appeals court is scheduled to consider the DOJ's proposal at a May 15 hearing. Thursday's New York Times has more.

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