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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Federal judge denies Al Odah Guantanamo habeas petition
Jaclyn Belczyk at 11:24 AM ET

[JURIST] Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] denied the habeas corpus petition of Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Fawzi Khalid Abdullah Fahad Al Odah in a partially redacted opinion [text, PDF] made public Monday. Kollar-Kelly denied Al Odah's habeas petition last week, finding that the government had shown that it was more likely than not that he "became part of Taliban and al Qaeda forces" after traveling to Afghanistan and attending a terrorist training camp. Despite refusing to give the government's hearsay evidence authoritative weight, Kollar-Kotelly concluded:


At bottom, this evidence reflects that Al Odah made a conscious choice to ally himself with the Taliban instead of extricating himself from the country. His explanation that he chose to avoid the fighting in Afghanistan but mistakenly ended up carrying a weapon in the Tora Bora mountains during the Battle of Tora Bora becomes increasingly incredible each time the evidence reveals that he moved ever closer to the fighting and repeatedly accepted directions from those affiliated with the Taliban. Based on all of the evidence in the record, the Court concludes that the only reasonable inference is that Al Odah made a conscious decision to become a part of the Taliban's forces, and not that he became innocently ensnared in fighting after unsuccessfully attempting to leave the country.

In making her decision, Kollar-Kotelly ruled that the "key inquiry" for determining whether an individual has become part of the Taliban or al Qaeda is "whether the individual functions or participates within or under the command structure of the organization — i.e., whether he received and executes orders or directions."

Al Odah's case, pending since 2002, was the second-oldest Guantanamo case in the DC District Court. Al-Odah's case was a companion case to the 2008 Supreme Court ruling in Boumediene v. Bush [opinion text; JURIST report], in which the Court determined that Guantanamo detainees have a constitutional right to bring a habeas challenge in federal court. Al Odah's case was also a companion case to the 2004 Supreme Court decision of Rasul v. Bush [opinion text; JURIST report], in which the Court ruled that US courts have jurisdiction to hear challenges brought by foreign-born detainees to contest their captivity and treatment at Guantanamo Bay.





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