NEW YORK, Oct. 9 (UPI) -- Subjecting Osama bin Laden's son-in-law to sensory deprivation during an in-flight interrogation to the United States clouds his statements, a judge was told.
Retired Brig. Gen. Stephen Xenakis, a psychiatrist testifying on behalf of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, said the use of blackout goggles and earmuffs raises questions about whether Ghaith's statements were voluntary during Tuesday's federal court session in the Southern District of New York, Courthouse News Service reported.
Prosecutors have denied that the interview was coercive, saying interrogators provided Ghaith food and water, allowed him pray and go to the bathroom, and read his Miranda rights during the flight earlier this year. Prosecutors said Ghaith was captured Feb. 28 in Amman, Jordan, and brought to the United States the following day.
Prosecutors believe the defendant was summoned by bin Laden hours after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the United States to plot other attacks on the United States and its allies, CNS said.
Xenakis, a psychiatrist associated with Physicians for Human Rights who often observes detainees at Guantanamo Bay, said he never personally treated Ghaith. He was testifying on the literature he read on the case and his experiences studying sensory deprivation.
During questioning by Ghaith's attorney, Stanley Cohen, Xenakis said sensory deprivation could have been particularly stressful for Ghaith, who allegedly suffered from anxiety disorder, claustrophobia and a stroke he had while in Iranian custody six years ago.
When Judge Lewis Kaplan asked the basis of that diagnosis, Xenakis replied that he could only fully answer the question in a classified session.
Throughout the examination, Kaplan warned Cohen to keep questioning short and repeatedly upheld prosecutor's objections over relevance and lack of personal knowledge. Kaplan later suggested Cohen was showboating for reporters.
"This is obviously a performance for an audience other than the judge that is going to hear it," he said.