A US judge has deferred ruling on demands by inmates at Guantanamo Bay for a court inquiry into the CIA's destruction of videotapes showing harsh interrogations of terror suspects.
Federal District Court Judge Henry Kennedy held a hearing on Friday on whether the spy agency violated his 2005 order to preserve any possible evidence of detainee mistreatment at the US prison camp in Cuba.
The scandal came to light earlier this month when Central Intelligence Agency chief Michael Hayden informed staff that in 2005 the agency had destroyed tapes showing the interrogations of two Al-Qaeda suspects.
Defence lawyer David Remes had asked the court to call an inquiry into the affair, as the tapes reportedly show the suspects undergoing waterboarding, a process of simulated drowning that is widely considered torture.
But government lawyers -- who denied the tapes contained scenes of torture of suspects at Guantanamo -- said this should wait until the Justice Department concluded its own investigation into the matter.
The judge said he would consider the demand for a court inquiry, without saying when he would issue his ruling.
At one point in court, the judge appeared to back the government's view that the Justice Department be allowed to investigate the matter first, asking: "Why should the court not permit the Department of Justice to do just that?"
Remes said the government could not be trusted. "Plainly, the government wants only foxes guarding the henhouse," he said in his motion, according to US media reports.