WASHINGTON — A federal judge has ordered that an independent medical panel conduct a review of the mental health of a Saudi prisoner at the Guantanamo Bay detention center who has been accused of trying to enter the U.S. to be the 20th hijacker in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Mohammed al-Qahtani has been held at Guantanamo for 18 years but never charged because a Pentagon legal official determined he had been tortured at the U.S. base in Cuba.
Lawyers for al-Qahtani say he has suffered from mental illness, including schizophrenia, since childhood and should be returned home to Saudi Arabia for psychiatric confinement and treatment. The government opposes repatriation and says he can be treated at Guantanamo.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer directed the government to set up a Mixed Medical Commission. It would consist of an American military doctor along with two physicians from a neutral third country to determine if his condition meets the standard for required medical repatriation according to Army regulations governing the treatment of prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions.
It would be the first time such a commission has been ordered at Guantanamo but Shayana Kadidal, an attorney for the 45-year-old prisoner, said a similar process was used for thousands of captured German troops during World War II.
“It is something that is part of the traditional make up of military detention,” Kadidal said. “It’s not something novel. It’s in the Army’s own regs.”