Lawyers: Paralegal, military attorney ordered to stop speaking to press about Guantanamo abuse
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico-- A paralegal and a military lawyer who brought forward allegations about prisoner abuse at the Guantanamo Bay detention center have been ordered not to speak with the press about their accusations, lawyers who work with the pair said Saturday.
Marine Lt. Col. Colby Vokey, who represents a detainee at the U.S. naval base in eastern Cuba, filed a complaint with the Pentagon last week alleging that abuse was ongoing at the prison. He attached a sworn statement from his paralegal, Sgt. Heather Cerveny, in which she said several Guantanamo guards bragged in a bar about beating detainees, describing it as common practice.
Muneer Ahmad, a civilian defense lawyer for Omar Khadr, a Canadian detainee whose military counsel is Vokey, said it was his understanding that Vokey and Cerveny were ordered Friday by the U.S. Marines not to speak with the press. He also said Vokey was barred from talking to the media about anything related to the military commissions — tribunals set up to try detainees.
Reached by telephone, Vokey declined to comment, saying, "I can't even talk about it." When asked if he was going to abide by the order for the time being, he said, "yes."
Ahmad said he didn't know how the order was issued. He said Vokey previously had the military's authorization to speak with the media, and believed that they would have to consider legal options to challenge the alleged gag order.
"If he doesn't abide by it then he would be derelict of his duty," Ahmad said.
The order created a conflict between Vokey's military obligations and his ethical duty as a lawyer, Ahmad said.
"It's in Omar's interests for the truth about abuses of detainees at Guantanamo, including him, to get out in the open. But Colby (Vokey) is being prevented from doing that part of his job ... and thereby representing Omar's interests," he said. . . . "I think he is very concerned about his ability to perform his job as a lawyer," Ahmad said. "It's really quite troubling ... at this point I'm not sure what our next steps will be."
Cerveny, 23, visited Guantanamo last month and said she spent an hour with the guards at the military club. She said the guards stopped discussing beating detainees after finding out that she works for a detainee's legal team.
"It was a general consensus that I (detected) that as a group this is something they did. That this was OK at Guantanamo, that this is how the detainees get treated," Cerveny said in a telephone interview Thursday night.
Gen. John Craddock, commander of the U.S. Southern Command, said Friday that he had ordered an investigation headed by an Army colonel. "The investigation is consistent with U.S. Southern Command's policy to investigate credible allegations of abuse" at Guantanamo detention facilities, the Southern Command said in a statement. . . .
Guantanamo Bay began receiving prisoners, most of them captured in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in January 2002.
Only 10 of the detainees have been charged with crimes.