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Monday, March 01, 2010

ACLU files habeas petitions on behalf of Bagram detainees
Megan McKee at 9:05 AM ET

[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] has filed habeas corpus petitions [press release] on behalf of four detainees held at Bagram Air Base [official website; JURIST news archive] in Afghanistan. The first petition [text, PDF], filed Friday in the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website], challenges the detention of Haji Abdul Wahid, a 61-year-old government employee, and his nephew Zia-ur-Rahman, a food merchant, who were imprisoned after being taken from their homes by the US military in a neighborhood sweep. The second petition [test, PDF], also filed Friday, challenges the detention of Samiullah Jalatzai, who was arrested without explanation at his workplace, and his brother Sibghatullah Jalatzai, who was a US military translator prior to his detention. All four men have been held at Bagram for over a year, but the ACLU claims that none of the men has engaged in hostile behavior directed at the US, nor are they members of groups that purport to do so. The petitions ask that the men be informed of why they are detained, be permitted to speak with a lawyer, and be given a legitimate forum to challenge the legality of their detention. Staff attorney for the ACLU National Security Project Melissa Goodman said that, "[l]ocking up people who were picked up far from any battlefield for years without telling them why, without giving them access to lawyers and without giving them a real chance to contest the evidence against them is unlawful and un-American."

In January, the US Department of Defense released a list of names of 645 prisoners detained at Bagram in response to a Freedom Of Information Act lawsuit filed [JURIST reports] by the ACLU in September. However, much of the vital information, including their citizenship, how long they had been held, in what country they were captured, and the circumstances of their capture, was redacted. Also in January, Afghan officials signed [JURIST report] a memorandum of understanding to delineate the process under which they will eventually take over the Bagram detention facility. The transfer of responsibility is expected within six months. Prisoners at Bagram have launched previous habeas corpus challenges [JURIST report] in US courts but thus far have been less successful than those held at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive].






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