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DC Circuit orders further review of Guantanamo detainee release order

A three-judge panel for the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] on Friday ordered further review [opinion, PDF] of a lower court decision to release Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Mohamedou Olud Slahi [NYT materials], allegedly linked to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The order vacated US District Court Judge James Robertson's decision to release [JURIST report] Slahi and remanded the case, instructing the court to conduct further review to see if Slahi has abandoned ties to the al Qaeda terrorist group to which he swore an oath of allegiance in the early 1990s. The government argues that Slahi can be detained under the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) [text, PDF] because he was "part of" al Qaeda when he was captured. The issue was whether, by swearing an oath of allegiance, he was sufficiently part of al Qaeda to allow further detention under Hamdi v. Rumsfeld [opinion, text]. The circuit court ruled that the record was insufficient to make a determination as to whether the US government has met its burden of proof to show that Slahi was a "part of" al Qaeda. Slahi has neither been criminally charged for providing material support to a terrorist organization nor for any connection to the 9/11 attacks.

The circuit court heard oral arguments [JURIST report] on the case in September after the district court had originally ordered Slahi's release in March. The 9/11 commission report said that Slahi was connected to the 9/11 terrorist attacks [Miami Herald report], and he was once considered a key al Qaeda leader with prosecutors seeking 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].

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