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Federal judge denies release of Taliban Guantanamo detainee

A judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia on Thursday ruled [opinion, PDF] against the release of a former high-ranking Taliban [CFR backgrounder] official at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] despite a request from Afghanistan's Peace Council to release the prisoner. Judge Ricardo Urbina [official profile] denied a petition for writ of habeas corpus initiated by Khairullah Khairkhwa, a Taliban government media spokesman, governor and Cabinet minister. While the government contends that Khairkhwa provided material support to the Taliban, the detainee maintains he was merely a civilian administrator and did not participate in military operations. Urbina held that the government had shown by a preponderance of the evidence that Khairkhwa participated in clandestine meetings to discuss Iranian weapon and military support related to operations against the US, and had specialized knowledge about locations of personnel and military operations. Urbina also indicated that Khairkhwa's involvement with the Taliban was prolonged:

Despite the petitioner's efforts to portray himself as a reluctant, marginal figure within the Taliban, the record indicates that the petitioner rose to the highest level of the Taliban and had close ties to Mullah Omar, who repeatedly appointed the petitioner to sensitive, high-profile positions. Indeed, even after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, the petitioner remained within Mullah Omar's inner circle, despite the fact that Mullah Omar had limited his contacts to only his most trusted commanders.
Afghanistan's Peace Council, a commission set up by Afghan President Hamid Karzai [BBC profile, JURIST news archive], asked that Khairkhwa be returned to Kabul [Telegraph report] in February to facilitate peace talks between the government and Taliban leaders. Khairkhwa has been at Guantanamo for more than nine years.

There have been over 200 writs of habeas corpus filed on behalf of Guantanamo Bay detainees. In June, a judge for the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] overturned [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] the release of Yemeni Guantanamo Bay detainee Hussein Salem Mohammed Almerfedi [NYT profile], an alleged al Qaeda [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] supporter. A federal appeals court denied habeas corpus [JURIST report] to Guantanamo Bay detainee Musa'ab Omar al-Madhwani in May, concluding that he was lawfully detained for being part of al Qaeda. In March, an appeals court blocked the release [JURIST report] of Guantanamo detainee Uthman Abdul Rahim Mohammed Uthman by overturning [opinion, PDF] a district court decision that claimed the government had failed to prove prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Uthman had received and executed orders from al Qaeda. In September, Kuwaiti Guantanamo detainee Fawzi Khalid Abdullah Fahad al Odah petitioned [text, PDF; JURIST report] the US Supreme Court [official website] to reverse a federal appeals court decision that denied him habeas corpus relief. The DC appeals court denied [text, PDF; JURIST report] habeas corpus relief to al Odah in July. The court affirmed the district court's ruling [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that there was sufficient evidence against al Odah for him to be considered "part of" al Qaeda and Taliban forces. The Supreme Court denied his petition in April.

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