Undie-cover operation: Guantanamo's top-secret Speedo case

For more than five years lawyers representing terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay have been pressing the American Government to disclose the evidence against their clients.

Well, now they have. And it doesn't make pleasant reading.

Commanders at the United States naval base in Cuba have written to lawyers for two of the inmates accusing their clients of wearing contraband underpants and Speedo swimming trunks which they claim have been illegally smuggled into the high-security compound.

In a bizarre development that would be laughable if it did not have such serious implications, the US prison's staff judge advocate has launched an official inquiry to discover who is behind the smuggling operation. The judge has named the prisoners' lawyers the prime suspects.

These allegations are the latest in a series of increasingly desperate attempts by the Guantanamo authorities to undermine the relationship between human rights lawyers and their clients. Muslim prisoners have also been told that their legal representatives are practising Jews or homosexuals.

Clive Stafford Smith, legal director of human rights group Reprieve, and another Reprieve lawyer, are both accused of threatening the personal safety of the prison guards by smuggling in the unauthorised clothing.

Under US law it is a criminal offence to bring any illicit item into a prison.

In a letter written last month the judge advocate says: "Your client Shaker Aamer, detainee ISN 239, was recently discovered to be wearing Under Armor briefs and a Speedo bathing suit. Neither item was issued to the detainee by JTF-Guantanamo personnel, nor did they enter the camp through regular mail."

He adds: "We are investigating this matter to determine the origins of the above contraband and ensure that parties who may have been involved understand the seriousness of the transgression."

Stafford Smith has written back dismissing the allegations as ridiculous, saying that the case smacks of the growing sense of desperation inside the camp. He says the letter he received is the "most extraordinary" he has ever received in his career as a human rights lawyer.

Stafford Smith tells the judge: "I hope you understand my frustration at yet another unfounded accusation against lawyers who are simply trying to do their job - a job that involves legal briefs, not the other sort."

On the allegation regarding Speedo swimming trunks Stafford Smith writes: "I cannot imagine who would want to give my client Speedos or why. Mr Aamer is hardly in a position to go swimming, since the only available water is the toilet in his cell."

Aamer, 38, was captured in December 2001. The Americans claim he was fighting with the Taleban. Reprieve maintains that he was sold by villagers to the Northern Alliance who in turn sold him on to the Americans.

The second detainee accused of wearing the contraband underwear is a juvenile named Mohammed El Gharani, a Chad national, who was just 14 years old when he was seized by the Pakistani authorities and sold to the US military.

These latest allegations, say the lawyers, smacks of desperation, perhaps signalling the endgame in the five-year life of the unlawful detention camp.

- Independent

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