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Federal appeals court overturns enemy combatant status of Guantanamo detainee

[JURIST] A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit Monday ordered [PDF text] the US government to release or transfer a Chinese Uighur Muslim [JURIST news archive] detained at Guantanamo Bay, ruling that Huzaifa Parhat had been improperly designated as an enemy combatant by a US Combatant Status Review Tribunal [DOD materials]. Barring release or transfer, the order directed the US to "expeditiously hold a new Tribunal consistent with the court's opinion." Parhat will be able to challenge his detention in federal court and seek immediate release through a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to the US Supreme Court's ruling in Boumediene v. Bush [opinion, PDF; JURIST report]. The appellate court's opinion has not yet been released because it contains classified information, but a redacted version is being prepared. Reuters has more.

In April, US Department of Justice (DOJ) lawyers defended Parhat's detention [JURIST report] in oral arguments before the court, claiming he is an "enemy combatant" due to his ties with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) [MIPT backgrounder], a militant group that calls for separation from China and was designated as a terrorist group by the US government in 2002. The DOJ acknowledged that Parhat did not fight against the US and that there is no evidence that he intended to do so, but said he can still be held under the Authorization for Use of Military Force Act of 2001 [SJ Res 23 materials] because ETIM is affiliated with al Qaeda. In 2006, five Chinese Uighur detainees were released to Albania [JURIST report], where officials reviewed applications for asylum. The transfer, which was criticized by China, ended a court challenge against the detainees' indefinite detention [JURIST reports]. In December 2006, lawyers for seven Uighur detainees filed a lawsuit [JURIST report], arguing that the process by which they were determined to be enemy combatants was flawed.

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