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DC Circuit denies Guantanamo detainee habeas petition

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] on Wednesday denied [opinion, PDF] a petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed by Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Adham Mohammed Ali Awad, allowing for continued incarceration of the Yemeni national by the US government. A three-judge panel unanimously upheld the district court's decision [JURIST report], which referred to Awad's role in armed conflict as "gossamer thin," but still denied the detainee's request for relief from indefinite incarceration. Awad is accused of participating in combat training against the US in Afghanistan and is being charged in an al Qaeda [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] raid of an Afghan hospital. Writing the opinion for the panel, Chief Judge David Sentelle confirmed both the factual and legal findings of the lower court, clarifying two legal standards for the court to use going forward. First the circuit court confirmed that in defending prolonged imprisonment of a detainee, the government is not required to show the detainee was part of the "command structure" of a terrorist group, but simply "part of" the organization. This statement lowers the threshold for the amount of evidence needed for incarceration. The threshold was further limited by court's clarifying statement regarding a previous ruling [text, PDF], holding that preponderance of evidence is the burden of proof to be used by the government in justifying continued imprisonment. The case was actually decided on June 2, but a redacted version was issued after the government verified that all confidential information had been removed [court order, PDF] from the opinion. The circuit court will now decide whether to reevaluate the judgment en banc.

The US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] has ruled in favor of the government in 13 habeas corpus cases [JURIST news archive], while Guantanamo detainees have prevailed in 36 cases. Last month, the district court ordered the release [JURIST report] of Yemeni Guantanamo Bay detainee Mohammed Hassen [NYT profile]. Hassen had been initially detained in March 2002 following a raid in Faisalabad by Pakistani security forces. He has maintained throughout his detention that he had traveled to Pakistan to study the Qur'an [text] at Salafi University and had no knowledge of al Qaeda prior to his detention. The court issued another ruling in May ordering the release [JURIST report] of Russian Guantanamo detainee Ravil Mingazov [NYT profile]. Mingazov, a former ballet dancer, was captured in Pakistan in 2002 [Miami Herald report] and turned over to US authorities. The Pentagon claimed he was captured in a raid on a suspected terrorist safe house and that he had attended a terror training camp, but Mingazov denied the claims. Mingazov is seeking release to a country other than Russia, after Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported in 2007 that seven former Guantanamo detainees suffered abuse and torture [JURIST report] at the hands of Russian law enforcement agencies following their release from US custody in 2004.

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