Death penalty hearings against five Guantanamo Bay detainees were quickly shelved today, and the courtroom ordered “cleared” during the defense lawyer’s questioning of a former Gitmo prison commander Rear Admiral David Woods sparked an angry exchange with the prosecution.
Defense lawyer Commander Walter Ruiz was discussing the details of CIA input in controlling the detention center, as well as CIA restrictions on attorneys’ access to their clients. Woods plead ignorance on the matter, and Ruiz asked what intelligence organizations he knew of that were operating at Gitmo during his 10-month term as commander.
At that the Justice Department prosecutors ordered the hearings stopped, and warned Ruiz, in open court, that he was “playing with fire” in even asking those questions.
Ruiz, enraged, shot back that he “will not be threatened by the prosecution,” and went on to point out that there is a court security officer sitting right next to the judge who is supposed to be the one who decides if certain questions are verbotten. The officer didn’t say anything about it, and the prosecutors took Ruiz aside to threaten him some more, sparking him to reiterate his complaints.
The judge, Col. James Pohl, responded by ordering the courtroom cleared, and announced that a secret, closed-door session would be held to discuss the matter. What came of the session will, of course, remain a secret, and the death penalty cases will continue, with the detainees never to know what was said.