After 2.5 Years in the Brig, One of the American Disappeared Gets to See His Lawyer (but isn’t allowed to answer questions)

After two and a half years in the brig, one of the American Disappeared gets to see his lawyer, and learns he has a case, but the meeting is stuffed with military witnesses and taped, and he can't answer questions.

Recall that guilty or innocent, Hamdi is a US citizen. Captured in Afghanistan and brought to the US, the Bush people treat him as neither POW nor criminal. He gets no Geneva convention rights, nor any of the rights of a citizen. Although the facts of this case are not quite as raw as the Padilla case, they are troubling indeed.

How can anyone who says s/he's a conservative and cares about freedom or believes in a strict construction of the Constitution even contemplate voting for the Bush/Cheney/Ashcroft government when it says that says its policy is that it can arrest anyone it decides is dangerous, and can hold a citizen without formally charging them, incommunicado, indefinitely?

Terror Suspect, Attorneys Meet for 1st Time: Federal Public Defender Frank W. Dunham Jr. emerged from the one-hour meeting with Yaser Esam Hamdi, whom the government has declared an “enemy combatant,” and said he was pleased to finally see the man whose case he has litigated — sight unseen — for more than two years.

“This was becoming a hypothetical case to us, and now were are reminded it's about a human being who happens to be a U.S. citizen,” Dunham said. “Seeing the client in person, being able to put a human face on this case, had an effect on me that is not measurable.”

Dunham and Assistant Federal Public Defender Geremy Kamens delivered legal papers and newspaper articles to Hamdi, who Dunham said seemed equally happy to see his attorneys. “I'm sure it made an impression on a client who has been looking down a lightless tunnel for 21/2 years, not knowing anyone is doing anything for him, and now he knows that he has a case in the U.S. Supreme Court.”

But Dunham continued his criticism of the restrictions placed on the meeting at the Charleston Consolidated Naval Brig in South Carolina. Under guidelines drafted by Pentagon lawyers, military observers attended and recorded the meeting, and Dunham was not allowed to question Hamdi about the conditions of his confinement. “We were not able to talk about anything substantive,” Dunham said.

Legal experts said the meeting was significant amid a debate over the Bush administration's handling of the war on terrorism and with the U.S. Supreme Court scheduled to take up Hamdi's case in April. Hamdi is the first of the three people known to have been designated enemy combatants by the military to meet with an attorney.

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