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Gay lawyer files $26M lawsuit over claims he sought relationship with Al-Qaeda client

Sofia Lotto Persio October 16, 2018

This June 5, 2008 photo shows the entrance near the new courtroom at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (Fanny Carrier/AFP/Getty)

An Illinois-based lawyer is seeking $26 million in a defamation lawsuit against his co-counsel in the representation of a Guantanamo Bay inmate, an alleged mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks.

Tim Jon Semmerling claims that Chicago defence attorney Cheryl Bormann outed him to the client, alleged Al-Qaeda camp trainer Walid bin Attash, telling him the lawyer was seeking an intimate relationship with him.

The lawsuit complaint, filed on September 29 in an Illinois district court and seen by PinkNews, also names Department of Defense employees and members of the defence team Michael Schwartz, Brigadier General John G. Baker, Major Matthew H. Seeger and Edwin Perry as having taken part in a “character assassination” against Semmerling and his work, accusing them of having intentionally afflicted him emotional distress.

People walk past a guard tower outside the fencing of Camp 5 at the US Military’s Prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on January 26, 2017. (Thomas Watkins/AFP/Getty)

According to complaint, Semmerling worked on the defence team as a mitigation specialist between June 10, 2011 and October 23, 2015. Both Semmerling and the rest of the defence counsel were aware that the attorney’s sexual orientation should remain secret as their client “would not tolerate people on the team” who were either gay, served in Iraq and Afghanistan, or were Jewish.

Semmerling claims he was not sure what had happened when he was dismissed from the team until April 28, 2016, when he said he learned that Bormann and Schwartz had told the rest of the defence counsel that they outed him as gay to bin Attash. They allegedly falsely told the client that Semmerling was “infatuated” with him and “was pursuing a homosexual interest” with him.

The complaint claims that Semmerling’s firing was “wrongful” and the result of a “personal vendetta” from the rest of the team, and it implies that it followed bin Attash expressing dissatisfaction with the work of the counsel, except for Semmerling.

Walid bin Attash (Public domain)

Bin Attash, one of five Guantanamo inmates facing trial for their alleged role in the 9/11 attacks, had requested to represent himself a few days’ before Semmerling’s dismissal. According to a Reuters report dated October 19, 2015, bin Attash told the judge via an interpreter he no longer trusted his Pentagon-paid legal team. The judge refused bin Attash’s request a few weeks later.

Semmerling alleges that being outed to the enemy combatant has affected his physical and emotional wellbeing, as well as having had an impact on his career.

“They have hurt my career, these people, they have made sure I can never go back by outing me to Guantanamo Bay to work with any of the people down there,” Semmerling said in an interview to Fox32 Chicago in February.

More: Cheryl Bormann, Guantanamo, Illinois, Tim Jon Semmerling, US, Walid bin Attash

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