Federal judge rules Yemeni Guantanamo detainee is 'enemy combatant'

[JURIST] A judge in the US District Court for the District of Columbia ruled [order, PDF] Wednesday that the US may continue to hold Yemeni detainee Ghaleb Nassar Al Bihani [NYT materials] at the Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] prison facility. Judge Richard Leon [official profile] held that the government had met its burden of proving, by a preponderance of evidence, that Al Bihani is an "enemy combatant" [JURIST news archive]. Lawyers for Al Bihani argued that he only served as a cook for Taliban fighters and never fired on US troops, but Leon found that this was sufficient to classify him as an "enemy combatant" under the definition set forth last June by the Supreme Court in Boumediene v. Bush [opinion, PDF; JURIST report]. Leon wrote:

based on the evidence presented by the Government and all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom, the Court concludes that petitioner Al Bihani is being lawfully detained as an enemy combatant because it is more probable than not that he was "part of or supporting Taliban or al Qaeda forces" both prior to and after the initiation of U.S. hostilities in October 2001. Accordingly, the Court must, and will, DENY Al Bihani's petitioner for a writ of habeas corpus and will not order his release.
Leon will release a more detailed classified opinion and a final judgment next week.

The future of detainees held at Guantanamo is uncertain. Last week, US President Barack Obama [official website] issued an executive order [text] closing the facility [JURIST report]. Obama's order directed that the military prison be closed "as soon as practicable, and no later than 1 year from the date of this order." The order also instructed Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to immediately halt military commission [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] proceedings pending a comprehensive review of all Guantanamo detentions under the supervision of the Attorney General. The order did not specify where detainees would go upon release, but it did call for diplomatic efforts with foreign states in order to facilitate the closure of the facility. Obama's order has been hailed [JURIST report] by leaders around the world.

 

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