In an unusual move by a federal district court, Judge Gladys Kessler of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., today issued an order (PDF) holding the government in contempt of court for failing to videotape the testimony of a Guantanamo detainee last summer.
Mohammed Al-Adahi testified in June in a hearing on the merits of his petition for habeas corpus — his claim that he was being unlawfully detained by the U.S. government. In August, the 47-year-old father of two won that case, and Judge Kessler ordered that the government arrange for his release. The government has appealed.
Earlier, however, Judge Kessler had also ordered that the government videotape al-Adahi’s testimony and redact any classified information from it. The government notified her in July that it had “inadvertently” failed to do that.
Al-Adahi’s lawyer asked the Judge to hold the government in contempt for violating her order and effectively concealing the detainee’s testimony. Today, Kessler did just that.
Because the government claimed that its failure to videotape the testimony was an accident caused by “oversight and miscommunication,” the judge did not find criminal contempt, but civil contempt. That means no government lawyers will go to jail for violating her order, but they’ll have to post the detainee’s testimony publicly and ensure the court that the mistake won’t happen again.