A military medical board has concluded that Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who is accused of conspiring in the Sept. 11 attacks, has a mental illness that makes him incompetent to either face trial or plead guilty in the death penalty case, according to a report filed with his trial judge, reported The New York Times.
The finding is the latest setback to prosecution efforts to bring the long-running capital cases at Guantánamo Bay to trial. Last week, a military judge threw out the confession of a man accused of plotting the U.S.S. Cole bombing, Guantánamo’s other capital case, as contaminated by his torture by the C.I.A.
The question of Mr. bin al-Shibh’s sanity, and capacity to help his lawyers defend him, has shadowed the Sept. 11 conspiracy case since his first court appearance in 2008. Then, a military lawyer disclosed that her client was restrained with ankle shackles and that the prison had him medicated with psychotropic drugs. He has disrupted pretrial hearings over the years with outbursts, and in court and in filings complained that the C.I.A. torments him with noises, vibrations and other techniques to deprive him of sleep.
It was unclear whether the prisoner was allowed to see the report, which was filed under seal; for years he has resisted the idea that he has a mental illness and should be severed from the joint trial with the man accused of being the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and three other defendants. The five men are accused of conspiring in the plane hijackings in 2001 that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York City, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.
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