Federal appeals court upholds indefinite detention of Guantanamo detainee

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] on Tuesday affirmed [opinion, PDF] the 2010 denial of petition for a writ of habeas corpus [Cornell LII backgrounder] for Guantanamo [JURIST news archive] detainee Shawali Khan [NYT profile]. Khan is an Afghan citizen who, at the time of his capture in mid-November 2002, lived in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and is accused of belonging to Hezb Islami Gulbuddin (HIG) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], an active anti-American Afghan insurgency group with ties to the Taliban and al Qaeda [JURIST news archive]. On appeal, Khan contended there is insufficient reliable evidence in the form of government-offered intelligence reports to establish that he was part of HIG at the time of his capture. The court explained its standard of review in evaluating Khan's appeal:

Whether a detainee was "part of" an associated force is a mixed question of law and fact. That is, whether a detainee's alleged conduct is sufficient to make him "part of" a force and whether the alleged connections between that force and al Qaeda and/or the Taliban are sufficient to render it an "associated force" are legal questions that we review de novo. Whether the government has proven that conduct and those connections, however, are factual questions that we review for clear error.
After a lengthy analysis of evidence and the district court's findings, the appeals court found that there was no clear error of law or fact and affirmed the denial of Khan's petition.

Last September, Judge John Bates of the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] that the US government can indefinitely hold Khan [JURIST report] at the detention facility in Guantanamo. Lawyers for Khan have argued that he was a shopkeeper in Kandahar and not involved with fighting against American forces. They contended that Khan was captured by corrupt Afghans who turned him over to American forces and lied about his involvement with insurgents. The defense also presented evidence that HIG had no presence in the Kandahar region when Khan was captured. The case against Khan relies heavily on intelligence concurrently gathered by US intelligence collectors through several informants, some of whom are disaffected members of HIG. According to the court's opinion, such intelligence ultimately led to a decision by US military officials to neutralize the HIG cell, including the execution of an operation to capture Khan at his shop. The operation was a success, and Khan's home and shop were searched after his arrest, yielding a variety of physical evidence in the form of notebooks and letters. Heavily redacted classified intelligence reports state that the search of Khan's properties uncovered further, particularly incriminating evidence that confirmed his role in the Kandahar HIG cell.

 

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