MIAMI (AP) — A resolution of a dispute over the use of female guards inside the secret Camp 7 at the Guantanamo Bay prison will have to wait until at least January, a U.S. military judge ruled Tuesday.
Navy Capt. J.K. Waits agreed to a request by lawyers for an alleged al-Qaida commander to put off a hearing on the issue at the U.S. base in Cuba, according to Army Lt. Col. Myles B. Caggins, a Pentagon spokesman.
Lawyers for Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi asked to put it off because of delays collecting evidence.
Judge Waits left in place, over the objections of government prosecutors, an earlier order that requires the military to only use male guards to move al-Hadi at least while he considers whether to issue a permanent injunction.
Al-Hadi is facing trial by military commission at Guantanamo for war crimes. The case is in the pretrial stage and a trial date has not been scheduled.
His lawyers say al-Hadi began refusing to meet with them in recent months because the military had resumed including female guards among the escort teams that move him around the prison. His lawyers took it up with the judge, arguing that the issue was a violation of his Muslim faith, which prohibits physical contact with females unless he is related or married to them, and interfered with his legal representation on charges that could get him life in prison.
The objection to physical contact with female guards has also been raised by several other prisoners held in Camp 7, a secret unit for about 15 men designated by the Pentagon as "high-value detainees" but has not yet come before a judge handling their cases. The U.S. holds a total of 148 prisoners at the U.S. base.
Military officials say it would amount to gender discrimination to ban women from taking part in the escorting of prisoners inside Camp 7. Prosecutors argued in a written motion that taking women out of the rotation would also "place additional strain and responsibilities" on the male guard force.