Govt asks judge to halt plans for tape release

AP News
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Posted: Oct 15, 2014 10:01 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government asked a federal judge Wednesday night to halt plans for releasing videotapes showing a Guantanamo Bay hunger striker being forcibly removed from his cell, strapped to a restraining chair and force-fed his meals.

In a court filing, the Justice Department told U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler that the government may appeal an order by the judge that would for the first time lead to disclosure of classified information in a proceeding involving a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay.

The Justice Department told Kessler that she is substituting the court's judgment for that of executive branch officials, contrary to established precedent.

The government asked Kessler to halt the process that has been set up to enable the release of the tapes.

Last week, Kessler conducted a three-day hearing into the treatment of Syrian prisoner Abu Wa'el Dhiab.

Lawyers for Dhiab are challenging the removal, restraint and feeding procedures he is subjected to as abusive.

The key evidence in the court proceeding is a set of classified videotapes taken by prison personnel documenting the treatment of Dhiab by his handlers.

On Oct. 3, Kessler ordered the public release of 28 tapes. Subsequently, she set a deadline of Friday for blocking out identifying information such as faces, voices and names before public release of the tapes.

The schedule imposed by the court does not afford the government sufficient time to determine whether an appeal will be taken, much less for any such appeal to be resolved by that date, the Justice Department said in its court papers.

The judge also set a Monday deadline for news organizations and the government to prepare a joint proposal on how the tapes can be made available to the public most efficiently.