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Federal judge orders ex-Guantanamo detainee subject to strip searches

A ruling was released Thursday by Judge Lewis Kaplan of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) [official website] denying a request from former Guantanamo Bay detainee Ahmed Ghailani [GlobalSecurity profile; JURIST news archive] to be exempt from prison strip searches, citing security concerns. Kaplan issued the ruling on Monday [Washington Post report], but it was not made public until Thursday. Ghailani challenged a 1997 Bureau of Prisons [official website] policy that requires all inmates entering or leaving the Metropolitan Correctional Center [official website] in Manhattan to submit to a visual inspection of all body surfaces and cavities. A psychologist at Ghailani's trial stated that he was not opposed to the strip search in general, but to the visual rectal exam that is required. The exam allegedly triggers Ghailani's post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which he says he acquired while being interrogated at an overseas Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] detention camp. Kaplan held that the entire visual search was a necessary safety standard to prevent inmates from hiding weapons and other illegal items in body cavities. Ghailani's lawyer's argued that he would not be able to adequately defend himself at trial if he was continually suffering from psychological trauma, but Kaplan held that Ghailani could be found incompetent to stand trial if he is unable to assist in his defense. The request was filed in May after Kaplan ruled that Ghailani must attend the opening of his trial [JURIST report], requiring him to submit to strip searches.

Last month, Kaplan refused to dismiss criminal charges [JURIST report] against Ghailani, despite his lawyer's claims that he had been tortured in prison. Kaplan held that even if Ghailani was mistreated while in CIA custody, there was no connection between that and the current prosecution. In November, Kaplan ruled that Ghailani does not have a right to be represented by his military defense lawyers [JURIST report] in a civilian court. In July 2009 Ghailani's military lawyers requested access [JURIST report] to the CIA "black sites" at which their client was held prior to his transfer to Guantanamo Bay and was allegedly subjected to cruel interrogation methods. Ghailani was the first Guantanamo detainee to be brought to the US for prosecution. Having been held at the Guantanamo facility since 2006, Ghailani was transferred [JURIST report] to the SDNY in June to face 286 separate counts, including involvement in the bombings and conspiring with Osama bin Laden and other members of al Qaeda to kill Americans worldwide. He pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] at his initial appearance.

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