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DC Circuit hears arguments in Guantanamo detainee release appeal

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] on Friday heard oral arguments in the appeal of a district court ruling that ordered the release [JURIST report] of Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Mohamedou Olud Slahi [NYT materials]. The three-judge panel indicated that it is inclined to order that the case be reconsidered [WP report], also suggesting that the appeals court might reverse the decision itself. Judge James Robertson ruled in April that the government had to release Slahi because it was unable to prove that he was part of, or provided support to, al Qaeda [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; JURIST news archive] at the time of his capture. The panel noted that, since Judge Robertson's order, several pertinent decisions have been rendered that impact the manner in which it determines ties to terrorist organizations. The American Civil Liberties Union [advocacy website] called on the court to uphold [press release] Slahi's release, saying that doing so "would demonstrate the vital role of the courts in ... restoring the rule of law."

The court originally ordered the release [JURIST report] of Slahi in March. Slahi was once considered a key al Qaeda leader and prosecutors had sought the death penalty against him. A prominent government prosecutor stepped down from the case [PBS interview] because he did not support the alleged abusive treatment used against Slahi, which was investigated in a 2008 Senate Armed Services Committee [official website] report [text, PDF]. Earlier this month, a federal judge ruled that the US government can indefinitely hold [JURIST report] an Afghan detainee accused of having ties to the Taliban and al Qaeda. Last month, a federal judge ordered the release [JURIST report] of Yemeni Guantanamo Bay detainee Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif [NYT profile], citing a lack of evidence proving that Latif was part of a terrorist organization. In July, the DC Circuit also released a redacted opinion [JURIST report] holding that evidence against Algerian Guantanamo detainee Belkacem Bensaya must be reviewed to determine if he was "part of" al Qaeda.

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