Lawyers Move to Question ‘Callous’ Guantanamo Prison Chief Under Oath

A federal judge has been asked to compel sworn testimony from the military prison boss who confiscated the wheelchair of a disabled hunger-striker at Guantánamo Bay.

Lawyers representing Syrian prisoner Abu Wa’el Dhiab filed a motion last night to question Colonel John Bogdan under oath in Dhiab v Obama, which challenges force-feeding practices at the prison. In the same motion, they also request the sworn testimony of Guantánamo’s current and former head doctors about Mr. Dhiab’s need for a wheelchair, as well as current abusive and medically unsound force-feeding practices at the prison.

Col. Bogdan is responsible for a particularly brutal regime over the past two years at Guantánamo. In response to the mass hunger strike of 2013, he rolled out a series of harsh punishments designed to ‘break’ the peaceful protest of scores of cleared men who despair of ever being released.

In particular, attorneys want an explanation of the Col. Bogdan’s recent decision to deprive Mr. Dhiab, who is now disabled and in very poor health, of his wheelchair. Medical records made public on Wednesday suggest that the move was entirely punitive, with an April 25, 2014 note of a nurse warning Mr. Dhiab that his “dis(ciplinary) status with guard force is affecting his ability to have a wheelchair”.

The motion comes after 16 news organizations formally intervened in Dhiab v Obama to seek access to video evidence of Mr. Dhiab’s treatment on First Amendment grounds. That intervention motion can be read here.

Mr. Dhiab, a father of four from Syria, has been imprisoned without charge at Guantánamo Bay since 2002. He was cleared for release by the Obama Administration in 2009. A full hearing on the merits of his force-feeding challenge is expected to be scheduled by Labor Day.

Cori Crider, Reprieve attorney for Mr. Dhiab, said: “If you take a disabled man’s wheelchair away, you ought to have to answer for it under oath. Col. Bogdan’s new ‘no wheelchairs’ policy reveals at best a callous indifference to suffering, and at worst an abuse of the total power he exercises over prisoners in his care. This is the ugly reality of Guantánamo, and it is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Alka Pradhan, Reprieve attorney for Mr. Dhiab, said: “The US government needs to stop hiding behind secrecy at Guantanamo Bay and start giving answers about why my clients continue to be abused there.”