US LAWYERS battling against torture and other abuses at Guantanamo Bay are braced for George Bush issuing last-minute pardons to protect those in his Administration most closely implicated.
The lawyers’ warning came after a senior member of the Bush Administration, Susan Crawford, admitted for the first time that torture had been carried out.
Such pardons could prevent US courts from prosecuting people involved in torture on the Bush Administration’s watch, in much the same way that then president Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon in 1974 for crimes he may have committed during his presidency, even though no specific charge had been made against him.
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Judge Crawford’s admission of torture is in relation to the case of a Saudi national, Mohammed al-Qahtani, 30, accused of involvement in the 9/11 attack. He was captured in Afghanistan in 2002, tortured for a month and then kept in isolation.
Judge Crawford, a Pentagon official in charge of military commissions that decided whether detainees should be tried, told Bob Woodward of The Wash-ington Post: “We tortured Qahtani. His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that’s why I did not refer the case (for prosecution) . . . The techniques they used were all authorised, but the manner in which they applied them was overly aggressive.”