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Lawyer for Guantanamo Bay detainee speaks in Lincoln

Journal Star
by Zach Pluhacek
April 8, 2010

Muhammad Ahmad Abdallah al Ansi has been detained by the United States government for more than eight years without a trial, attorney Emmet Bondurant told college students Wednesday.

Interrogators tortured al Ansi with electric shocks, nearly drowned him and pulled out his fingernails and toenails, the attorney said.

"I have seen his hands," Bondurant said, speaking before a media law class at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. "His hands literally have no fingernails."

The speech at UNL's College of Journalism and Mass Communications was the first of three Wednesday for Bondurant, who is part of a legal team representing al Ansi. He also spoke before the public at the UNL College of Law over the lunch hour and at the Unitarian Church of Lincoln at 7 p.m.

His client -- a Yemeni man captured in Pakistan and held as a suspected enemy combatant -- is one of many Guantanamo Bay detainees in a legal battle with the U.S. Department of Defense over their imprisonment.

Listeners at the three Lincoln speeches, organized by Common Cause Nebraska, asked Bondurant questions about his legal experience, his relationship with al Ansi and his decision to defend the man.

Bondurant maintains al Ansi's innocence. But, he told students, his client should be defended regardless of his guilt.

"Even the people who are guilty are entitled to the effective assistance of council," he said.

Bondurant's team is awaiting a hearing in its civil suit against the government in which it hopes to prove al Ansi is imprisoned illegally.

The U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., which is hearing the case, has given the federal government more than a year to compile evidence, much of which is hearsay, Bondurant said following his first speech.

Instead of providing videos or transcripts of al Ansi's interrogations -- which Bondurant insists exist -- the government is using summaries of the interviews, he said. Those summaries don't allow the defense or the judge to see exactly what al Ansi told his interrogators, and they would never be enough in a normal trial, he said

"They videotaped and recorded everything. ... That's just what you do."

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