A judge has rescinded his female guard “no-touch” order for a Guantanamo Bay detainee, saying he can’t use the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Guantanamo Bay previously obliged Abd al Hadi al Iraqi’s demand that female guards not be allowed to touch him, but the judge who initially issued the “no-touch” order is now arguing that Hadi can’t make use of the infamous Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which Hobby Lobby relied on in the U.S. Supreme Court.
The judge, Navy Capt. J.K. Waits, argued that the new ruling is backed by two main arguments: the need for a well-functioning facility, and the elimination of gender discrimination. Both of which provide enough reason to remove the previous ruling which barred female guards from touching Hadi, a former al-Qaida army commander in Afghanistan, Miami Herald reports.
Waits placed the prohibition in place in early November of 2014 and reconfirmed the ruling on Nov. 18. The prohibition came into play after Hadi struggled against female guards in October, an event which led male guards to step in and restrain the detainee. Hadi believes that only his wife should be allowed to touch him, citing his adherence to Islam as justification. According to reports, during the time the ruling was in effect, female guards were unable to shackle Hadi. Female guards compose approximately 10 percent of the guard population at Guantanamo Bay.
The Pentagon’s gradual shift towards ending gender discrimination appears to have won over religious accommodation of Islam. Additionally, the revisiting of the ruling was likely motivated by gender discrimination complaints from female guards, though Waits didn’t mention that factor in the ruling.
“We respect the decision by the Commission, but believe that Judge Waits and JTF GTMO misunderstand how important Hadi al-Iraqi’s religion is to him,” Marine Lt. Col. Thomas Jasper, Hadi’s defense attorney, commented. “Again, we are asking for a very simple accommodation so a devout Muslim, pending trial, can continue to practice his religion without restriction and being subjected to a violent force cell extraction before attending mandatory medical appointments, legal meetings, court sessions and all other essential visits.”
Hadi remains accused of commanding the al-Qaida army in Afghanistan during the time of the original American invasion in 2001, a finding established by the Guantanamo Review Task Force in 2010. He is one of 17 high-value detainees, and was “personally chosen by bin Laden to monitor al Qaeda operations in Iraq.”
If convicted, Hadi would be sent to prison for life.