Padilla sues UC law professor
over memos authorizing abuse
"John Yoo was central to the justification
and creation of the torture system"
By Julia Cheever
January 5, 2008
A former military prisoner sued a Berkeley law professor in
federal court in San Francisco Friday for writing legal memos
that justified his allegedly harsh interrogation and mistreatment
in a Navy brig.
Jose Padilla claims in the lawsuit that memos written by John
Yoo for the U.S. Justice Department supported an allegedly "extreme
and unprecedented interrogation and detention program" violating
U.S. laws and the Constitution.
Yoo, now a professor at the Boalt Hall School of Law at the University
of California at Berkeley, was a deputy assistant attorney general
in the Justice Department from 2001 to 2003. In that post, he
wrote memos on the detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects
designated as enemy combatants.
Yoo did not return messages seeking his comment on the lawsuit.
Padilla, 37, an American citizen, was arrested in Chicago in
2002 on suspicion of plotting in an alleged "dirty bomb"
scheme. He was declared an enemy combatant and kept in solitary
confinement in a Navy brig in South Carolina for three and one-half
Padilla was never charged in the alleged bomb plot, but was indicted
in 2005 on separate charges of supporting overseas jihadism. He
was transferred to a federal prison in January 2006 and convicted
of three counts in federal court in Miami this year. He is due
to be sentenced next week.
Padilla claims that while in the brig, he was subjected to "gross
physical and psychological abuse" that amounted to torture
and was authorized by Yoo's memos.
The alleged abuse included extreme sleep and sensory deprivation,
exposure to extreme temperatures, forced sitting and standing
in painful "stress" positions and threats during interrogation
of being cut with a knife or killed, the lawsuit says.
The suit also claims Padilla's legal rights were violated when
he was not allowed to see a lawyer for almost two years and then
was given access in limited conditions in which his communications
were monitored and he was not permitted to discuss his treatment.
Jonathan Freiman, a Yale law school lecturer representing Padilla
in the lawsuit, charged, "John Yoo was central to the justification
and creation of the torture system. Without his legal green light,
it never could have happened."
The suit seeks $1 in financial compensation and a court declaration
that the alleged practices were illegal and unconstitutional.
Padilla's mother, Estela Lebron, is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit,
claiming that she was denied virtually all contact with her son
while he was in the brig in violation of her constitutional rights
of communication and association.
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