Gov’t Rules Padilla (aka “Piece of Furniture”) Fit to Stand Trial


I find it amusing and terrible that the doctors who have some say in determining if Jose Padilla is fit for trial are associated with the prison system accused of making him unfit in the first place. Padilla, of course, is the U.S. citizen held in varying forms of unconstitutional imprisonment by the United States for three and a half years before finally being brought up on terrorism charges in a civilian court. He was known as the dirty bomber, even though charges of trying to create a radioactive dirty bomb were later dropped. (See more at the “Terror Prosecutions” section of the Mother Jones Iraq War Timeline.)

Today Reuters carries the unsurprising news that prison doctors have declared Padilla suitable for trial, ignoring Padilla’s claims that he has been tortured by the United States and has become unresponsive as a “piece of furniture” due to years of sensory deprivation techniques that keep him from seeing, hearing, or touching anything.

It doesn’t help that Padilla himself claimed to be sane, but descriptions of his imprisonment are harrowing (see below) and doctors from the defense argue that Padilla is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder compounded by years of isolation, and that he only claims to be sane because he has become pathologically afraid anyone would think otherwise. So the prosecution says Padilla is fit for trial, the defense say he isn’t. On February 22, the court will hold a hearing to determine who it agrees with.

Please enjoy the following example of the United States government violating the human rights of one of its own citizens:

Padilla was kept in a 9-by-7-foot (3-by-2-metre) cell, the lone occupant in a two-story, 10-unit block, defense lawyer Andrew Patel wrote in an affidavit. The windows were blocked so no light could enter and meals, often cold, were delivered through a slot in the door, Patel said.

Interrogators ordered his pillow and foam mattress removed, forcing Padilla to sleep on a bare steel platform.

Padilla was kept without a clock, calendar or reading material, sometimes for long periods in darkness, and other times for long periods under bright light. He was subjected to extreme cold, deprived of sleep, chained in painful positions and drugged with what he believed to be “truth serum,” the documents alleged.

“I have been advised that his cell was electronically monitored and that Mr. Padilla had no contact with other human beings,” Patel wrote.

For the first two years, he was not allowed to speak with a lawyer nor send or receive mail, except for a brief note sent to his mother in Florida through the International Committee of the Red Cross.

When Patel was first allowed to visit his client in March 2004, the brig staff told him that Padilla “was so docile and inactive that his behavior was like that of a piece of furniture,” Patel wrote.

Nonetheless photos introduced in the court case showed that when Padilla was taken to see a dentist, he was shackled at the hands and feet, wearing blackout goggles and earmuffs, and escorted by guards whose faces were hidden by riot helmets.

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