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Federal judge adopts new standard in ordering release of Guantanamo detainee

[JURIST] Judge Gladys Kessler of the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] has released an opinion [text] to accompany last week's order [text, PDF; JURIST report] granting the habeas corpus petition of Yemeni Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Alla Ali Bin Ali Ahmed. In the heavily redacted opinion, released Monday, Kessler adopted a "substantially supported" standard for reviewing the habeas petitions filed by detainees, which makes no reference to the "enemy combatant" [JURIST news archive] classification upon which the previous standard was based. Kessler wrote that the government failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Ahmed was "part of, or substantially supported, Taliban or al-Qaida forces or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners." According to the opinion, the government failed to prove that Ahmed participated in fighting, received military training, or substantially supported al Qaeda or the Taliban. At least four witnesses on whose statements the government based its case against Ahmed were speculative, vague, or not credible [Washington Post report]. Ahmed denied he ever engaged in terrorist activities.

Ahmed was picked up [DOD materials, PDF] in an al Qaeda safe house in 2002 in Pakistan. The government had argued that Ahmed's detention was justified under the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) [text]. Kessler noted that the Obama administration relies on the AUMF rather than Article II of the US Constitution as a source of authority for detaining terrorism suspects but no longer uses the term "enemy combatant" as a criterion for ordering such detentions. Last month, another district judge for the District of Columbia adopted [JURIST report] the "substantially supported" standard for authorizing and reviewing detention of terrorism suspects at Guantanamo proposed by the Department of Justice [official website].

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