Federal judge orders five Gitmo detainees released

A judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia Nov. 20 ordered the release of five Algerian detainees from Guantánamo Bay. In the first ruling on detainees’ rights since the June Supreme Court decision in Boumediene v. Bush, Judge Richard Leon found that the government’s evidence was insufficient that the men were planning to travel to Afghanistan to join al-Qaeda, the basis for ther classification as “enemy combatants.”

Wrote Judge Leon:

[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 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.

In a related development, a military judge at Guantánamo Bay rejected evidence against detainee Mohammed Jawad, finding that it had been obtained through torture. Other evidence against Jawad for his pending trial by military commission was excluded in October, also because it had allegedly been obtained through torture.

See our last post on Guantánamo Bay.