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Federal judge orders release of Yemeni Guantanamo detainee

The US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] on Friday released a partially redacted opinion [text, PDF] on the habeas corpus petition of Yemeni Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Hussain Salem Mohammad Almerfedi [NYT report], which was granted by the court earlier this month [JURIST report]. Judge Paul Friedman granted the petition after finding that the Obama administration did not prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Almerfedi, who has been in US custody since 2002, was either part of or substantially supporting the Taliban or al Qaeda [GlobalSecurity backgrounders], under the standard set by the Supreme Court [official wesbite; JURIST news archive] in Boumediene v. Bush [JURIST report]. The government argued that it had met this standard because Almerfedi had stayed at an al Qaeda guest house, had been a facilitator for al Qaeda's activities and was affiliated with Jama'at al Tablighi (JT) [SAAG backgrounder], an Islamic missionary organization that the government alleges to have ties with al Qaeda. Almerfedi argued that he did not have ties with al Qaeda and was only involved with JT in hopes that the organization would send him to Europe for missionary work, where he hoped to relocate. In rejecting the government's arguments, Friedman cited the unreliability of the evidence against him, a significant portion of which was based entirely on the testimony of a fellow Guantanamo detainee. Due to this, the charges that he had stayed at the guest house and had acted as a facilitator were not accepted by the court. Additionally, Friedman held that despite evidence that some members of JT contributed financially to al Qaeda, this did not meet the burden of evidence in showing that Almerfedi provided support to the organization. Also Friday, the district court denied the habeas petition [opinion, PDF; order, PDF] of Ahmed Yaslam Said Kuman [NYT profile]. In doing so, Judge John Bates found that the attorney's filing the petition on Kuman's behalf did not have his authorization to do so, as required in Guantanamo habeas petitions. Additionally, Bates held that Kuman's decision not to proceed was knowing and voluntary.

The recent decisions bring the successful number of Guantanamo habeas petitions to 38, with the government winning 16. The district court on Wednesday granted the habeas petition [JURIST report] of another Yemeni detainee, Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif [NYT profile], ordering his immediate release from Guantanamo. In a separate decision announced Wednesday, a federal judge denied the habeas petition of Guantanamo detainee Abdul-Rahman Sulayman [NYT profile], ruling that he can continue to be held in custody indefinitely. Sulayman has also been in custody for over eight years. Most of the nearly 200 detainees remaining at Guantanamo are Yemeni, and many detainees have been transferred back to Yemen. In January, the US government suspended transfers [JURIST report] of Guantanamo detainees to Yemen after it was revealed that the so-called "Christmas Day Bomber" Umar Farouk Adbulmutallab [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], received al Qaeda training in Yemen.

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