Fort Meade Md: A US military judge ruled on Tuesday that female guards at the Guantanamo Bay prison should continue to be barred from touching an Iraqi man accused of being an al Qaeda commander in Afghanistan.
The attorney for the suspect, Abd al Hadi al Iraqi, who is charged with attacking coalition forces and killing civilians, argued that his Muslim religion forbade women other than his wife from touching him.
Navy Captain Judge JK Waits ordered the military’s Guantanamo Bay prison on Nov. 7 to suspend use of female guards to shackle or touch Hadi al Iraqi unless prosecutors could prove it was necessary.
On Tuesday, he decided to keep his order in place at least until a hearing scheduled for Jan. 26. Defense attorneys needed more time to gather evidence before the hearing, the judge said.
The dispute arose after an Oct. 8 confrontation when a female guard tried to shackle Hadi al Iraqi after he met with his attorneys. He resisted, which prompted male guards to restrain him.
His attorney, Marine Lieutenant Colonel Tom Jasper, wrote in a court filing after the incident that Hadi al Iraqi objected to female guards only when they carried out shackling and unshackling and other physical contact.
Prosecutors responded with a filing saying women guards were vital to operations at the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. About 10 percent of guards there are female, according to military officials.
On a separate issue, the judge ruled that Hadi al Iraqi could not claim immunity from prosecution under international law.
His attorneys had argued he should be classified as a “lawful combatant” under the Third Geneva Convention of 1949, thereby giving him immunity while he is a prisoner of the U.S. government.
Hadi al Iraqi was captured in 2007 and is designated a "high-value detainee" at Guantanamo Bay.
The hearing was monitored by closed circuit television at a media center at Fort Meade, outside of Washington.