[JURIST] A federal judge on Saturday ordered the release [opinion, PDF] of Guantanamo Bay detainee Mohammed Odaini, who will now be transferred to his homeland of Yemen [JURIST news archives], despite the Obama administration’s ban on repatriation to the Arab nation. In January, the administration suspended all transfers of Guantanamo Bay detainees to Yemen [JURIST report] citing security concerns. Judge Henry Kennedy Jr. of the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] ruled that the US government has illegally detained Odaini for the past eights years and ordered his release, forcing the administration to make an exception to the ban. Kennedy held that the government had failed to show a preponderance of evidence, the lower standard of proof used in to prosecute suspected terrorists, linking Odaini to al Qaeda [JURIST news archive]:
Respondents have kept a young man from Yemen in detention in Cuba from age eighteen to age twenty-six. They have prevented him from seeing his family and denied him the opportunity to complete his studies and embark on a career. The evidence before the Court shows that holding Odaini in custody at such great cost to him has done nothing to make the United States more secure. There is no evidence that Odaini has any connection to Al Qaeda. Consequently, his detention is not authorized by the AUMF. The Court therefore emphatically concludes that Odaini’s motion must be granted.
Odaini was a student at a religious institution in Faisalabad, Pakistan, before he was detained in 2002. He had been visiting a nearby guesthouse for the first time when it was raided by US forces. The Obama administration has confirmed that ban on transfers to Yemen is still in place [WP report] and the repatriation of Odaini should not be seen as a representation of the administration’s broader policy on Yemeni detainees.
Most of the detainees remaining at Guantanamo are Yemeni, and many have been transferred back to the Arab nation. In January, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] upheld the detention [JURIST report] of Yemeni Guantanamo detainee Ghaleb Nassar Al-Bihani [NYT materials], ruling that he can remain in US custody, but, in December, the US government transferred six detainees [JURIST report] back to Yemen. Also in December, a federal judge granted Yemeni detainee Saeed Hatim’s petition for habeas corpus, ordering his release [JURIST report]. A few weeks after the Obama administration suspended transfers to Yemen, a Yemeni government official said that Yemen will build a rehabilitation center for Guantanamo detainees. According to the anonymous official, Yemen will begin building [Reuters report] once it receives funding for the $11 million project promised by the US. It is believed the rehabilitation center will be internationally financed and monitored.