FORT MEADE, Md. (AP) — Some female guards at the Guantanamo Bay prison have filed equal opportunity complaints challenging court orders barring them from jobs that would require touching detainees while escorting them to hearings and attorney-client meetings, a military judge said Monday.
The two complaints filed with the Defense Department's Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity complicate a dispute that stems from the detainees' assertion that their Muslim faith prohibits physical contact with females who are not their wives or relatives. Some defense lawyers have argued that the government recently added women to the escort teams to humiliate the men and disrupt their ability to defend themselves.
Prosecutors have argued that barring women from escort duty would amount to gender discrimination.
The complaints were revealed Monday by Navy Capt. J. Kirk Waits as he presided over a pretrial hearing for Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi at the U.S. base in Cuba. The Associated Press watched a closed-circuit video feed of the hearing at Fort Meade, near Baltimore.
Waits said he heard on Friday about the complaint in al-Hadi's case but hadn't seen it.
Waits issued an interim order in November barring female guards from the escort work with al-Hadi. Defense attorneys want the judge to make the order final, with oral arguments scheduled later this week.
Army Col. James Pohl, the judge in another U.S. Military Commissions case against the five defendants in the Sept. 11 attacks, advised attorneys Monday that he learned Friday of a similar complaint challenging a ruling he made in January.
Waits said the discrimination complaint would have no bearing on proceedings in al-Hadi's case.
"This was a lawful judicial order by a qualified and properly detailed military judge to this commission," he said.
"I am not aware of any administrative equal opportunity grievance procedure that affords a person a cognizable avenue to challenge a judicial order such as this," Waits said.
Military officials would not provide copies of the complaints to The Associated Press. Navy Capt. Tom Gresback, a Guantanamo spokesman, said it would be premature for the military to comment on them.
Al-Hadi is accused of being an al-Qaida commander who organized deadly attacks on U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan. He faces up to life in prison if convicted of the alleged war crimes. He appeared in court Monday wearing a white tunic, headdress and a long, gray beard.
All six defendants are being held at a top-secret Guantanamo unit known as Camp 7. The unit houses about 15 men deemed "high-value detainees" by the Pentagon.
Associated Press writer Ben Fox contributed to this report from Miami.