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Guantanamo Bay detainees file motion for religious prayer

[JURIST] Lawyers for Guantanamo Bay detainees on Thursday filed [motion, PDF] an emergency application in the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] for a temporary restraining order prohibiting the government from depriving the inmates of the right to pray communally during the month of Ramadan. Lawyers for petitioner Imad Abdullah Hassan have already applied [motion, brief, PDF] for a preliminary injunction, pending, that alleges that prohibiting the detainees from prayer violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) [text]. The emergency application was filed following the US Supreme Court's [official website] decision [JURIST report] in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby [SCOTUSblog backgrounder]. Hassan argues that the decision in Hobby Lobby, which held that for-profit corporations can deny coverage of contraception costs because of their religious beliefs, overrules the district court's prior decision in Rasul v. Myers [opinion, text]. In that case the court held that the Guantanamo Bay detainees are not protected "persons" within the meaning of the RFRA. Thus, the motion argues that "a nonresident alien Guantanamo Bay detainee, who inarguably has constitutional rights in what is de facto sovereign US territory [. . . ] must also enjoy the protections extended by the RFRA."

The treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST backgrounder] has raised human rights concerns and issues surrounding religious freedom internationally. In March Hassan filed another lawsuit [JURIST report] against the government in the DC District Court, challenging the force-feeding procedures at the prison. In 2004 four British citizens formerly held at Guantanamo Bay brought a lawsuit [JURIST report] against US officials, claiming their religious freedoms were infringed during detention.

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