COVID-19 Special Coverage
Federal judge dismisses lawsuit by former Guantanamo detainee
Federal judge dismisses lawsuit by former Guantanamo detainee

A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit [order, PDF] that was filed by a former Guantanamo detainee seeking to clear his name of the accusations of terrorism. The former detainee, Shawali Khan, was returned to Afghanistan in 2014 [JURIST report]. One of Khan’s complaints [NYT report] is that while he was detained at Guatanamo, the government introduced evidence against him that it did not reveal to his lawyers. Since then, the government has changed its stance on the credibility of that evidence. Mr. Khan’s defense team used this evidence to seek a decision by Judge John Bates of the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website], that Khan had never been lawfully detained and to absolve him of the former charges against him. Khan has stated that after his capture, the Afghan government seized his land, and that being cleared of the charges may help him secure the deeds to his land back. He also cited his inability to obtain a passport due to the charges of terrorism against him. Bates found that the case was moot as Khan was no longer in American custody. He also cited previous case law that found that reputational harm were not enough to open such a case. Further, he found that the issues Khan is complaining about should be remedied by the Afghan government and not the US.

In 2010 Bates ruled [opinion, PDF] that the US government could indefinitely hold Khan [JURIST report] at the detention facility in Guantanamo. Lawyers for Khan have argued that he was a shopkeeper in Kandahar and not involved with fighting against American forces. They contended that Khan was captured by corrupt Afghans who turned him over to American forces and lied about his involvement with insurgents. The defense also presented evidence that the Hezb-i-Islami party (HIG) had no presence in the Kandahar region when Khan was captured. The case against Khan relied heavily on intelligence concurrently gathered by US intelligence collectors through several informants, some of whom are disaffected members of HIG. According to the court’s opinion, such intelligence ultimately led to a decision by US military officials to neutralize the HIG cell, including the execution of an operation to capture Khan at his shop. The operation was a success, and Khan’s home and shop were searched after his arrest, yielding a variety of physical evidence in the form of notebooks and letters. Heavily redacted classified intelligence reports state that the search of Khan’s properties uncovered further, particularly incriminating evidence that confirmed his role in the Kandahar HIG cell.