Federal judge orders release of Guantanamo detainee for lack of evidence

[JURIST] The US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] on Monday released a partially redacted opinion [text, PDF] ordering the release of Yemeni Guantanamo Bay detainee Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif [NYT profile] for lack of evidence. The district court granted [JURIST report] Latif's habeas corpus petition in July, but the ruling was not made public until this week. Judge Henry Kennedy held that the government failed to meet the preponderance of evidence standard in proving that Latif was part of a terrorist organization and, therefore, his continued incarceration was unlawful. Latif, who has been in custody for more than eight years, contends that he was in Pakistan for medical treatment when he was arrested and turned over to US forces. The government alleged that Latif was sent to Pakistan and Afghanistan for al Qaeda [JURIST archive] training. In his opinion, Kennedy stated that the evidence against Latif was not "sufficiently reliable" to meet the burden of proof and that there was no corroborating evidence for any of the incriminating statements against the detainee. The government has not yet indicated whether it will appeal the decision, transfer Latif back to Yemen or find another country willing to accept him.

The DC district court ruling was the first decision to use the standard set forth last month by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Bensaya v. Obama [opinion, PDF], which requires the government to show a preponderance of evidence that an enemy combatant is "part of" a terrorist group [JURIST report]. The circuit court held that the government's authority under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) [text, PDF] only extends to the detention of individuals who are "functionally part of" a terrorist organization. Bensayah was the only one of the six petitioners from the 2008 Boumediene v. Bush [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] decision who was not granted habeas relief after the Supreme Court remanded the case for further review of evidence. Under Boumediene, federal courts have jurisdiction to review habeas corpus petitions filed by Guantanamo detainees who have been classified as "enemy combatants." In May, the DC Circuit ruled in Al Maqaleh v. Gates that Boumediene was narrowly tailored to detainees being held at Guantanamo and that detainees held at Bagram Air Force Base [official website; JURIST news archive] in Afghanistan cannot bring habeas corpus challenges in US courts.

 

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