[JURIST] A judge for the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] on Friday overturned [opinion, PDF] the release of Yemeni Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Hussein Salem Mohammed Almerfedi [NYT profile]. After his capture in 2001 and detention at Guantanamo Bay, Almerfedi filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus which was granted [JURIST] by a lower court. The government had argued that Almerfedi was a supporter of al Qaeda [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] because of his travels to Pakistan that indicated strong ties to the group. However, the court concluded that the government had not met its burden to show by a preponderance of the evidence that Almerfedi was part of al Qaeda. On the contrary, the appeals court took a holistic approach and agreed that the government had met its burden of proof by a preponderance of evidence that Almerfedi was, in fact, part of al Qaeda:
First, Almerfedi acknowledges that he stayed for two and a half months at Jama’at Tablighi, an Islamic missionary organization that is a Terrorist Support Entity “closely aligned” with al Qaeda. … [Second] if we add Almerfedi’s travel route, which is quite at odds with his professed desire to travel to Europe (and brought him closer to the Afghan border where al Qaeda was fighting), and also that he had at least $2,000 of unexplained cash on his person when captured … the government’s case that Almerfedi is an al Qaeda facilitator is on firmer ground. … We conclude that all three facts,when considered together, are adequate to carry the government’s burden of deploying credible evidence that the habeas petitioner meets the enemy-combatant criteria.
The court relied heavily on the notion that circumstantial evidence is often sufficient enough to keep a prisoner detained.
There have been over 200 writs of habeas corpus filed on behalf of Guantanamo Bay detainees. Last month, a federal appeals court denied habeas corpus [JURIST report] to Guantanamo Bay detainee Musa’ab Omar al-Madhwani, 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.