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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Federal judge orders five Guantanamo detainees released
Jaclyn Belczyk at 12:37 PM ET

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] on Thursday ordered the release [order, PDF] of five Algerian Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees. In the first ruling on detainees' rights since the June Supreme Court decision in Boumediene v. Bush [opinion, PDF; JURIST report], Judge Richard Leon [official profile] decided [Washington Post report] that the government's evidence was insufficient to persuade him that the men were planning to travel to Afghanistan to join al Qaeda and therefore properly classed as "enemy combatants:"

[W]hile the information in the classified intelligence report, relating to the credibility and reliability of the source, was undoubtedly sufficient for the intelligence purposes for which it was prepared, it is not sufficient for the purposes for which a habeas court must now evaluate it. To allow enemy combatancy to rest on so thin a reed would be inconsistent with this Court's obligation under the Supreme Court's decision in Hamdi to protect petitioners from the risk of erroneous detention. [emphasis in original]
Leon ordered that a sixth detainee, Belkacem ben Sayah, remain in custody because the government's evidence against him was sufficient to label him an enemy combatant. US Justice Department officials issued a statement [text] indicating that they were "pleased" with the court's decision to detain ben Sayah, but "disappointed" with the court's decision to release the other detainees.

Leon began habeas corpus hearings [JURIST report] for the six Algerians earlier this month. In October, he ruled [order, PDF; JURIST report] that in order to be validly held as "enemy combatants," Guantanamo Bay detainees [JURIST news archive] must have directly supported hostilities against the US or its allies, setting the standard which the government must use to justify their detention.

In a related development Wednesday, a military judge at Guantanamo Bay rejected [ACLU press release] evidence against detainee Mohammed Jawad [DOD materials; JURIST news archive], finding that it had been obtained through torture. Other evidence against Jawad for his pending trial by military commission was excluded [JURIST report] in October, also because it had allegedly been obtained through torture.

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