Supreme Court declines appeal for Guantánamo detainee once ordered free

Mohammed al-Adahi, a Guantánamo detainee, has been held without charge since 2002. A US judge ordered his release, but an appeals court reversed that, and the Supreme Court declined the case.

Khaled Abdullah/Reuters
Relatives of Yemeni detainees in Guantanamo hold a poster with portraits of detainees during a protest asking for their release in Sanaa, January 15. The port reads: "Close Guantanamo and Baghram .. bring back our sons."

A longtime detainee at the US terror prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has lost his bid to reinstate a federal judge’s order that he be freed.

The US Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to hear an appeal on behalf of Mohammed al-Adahi, a Yemeni national who has been held without charge at Guantánamo since 2002.

The high court’s action allows an appeals-court ruling to stand, authorizing the continued, open-ended detention of Mr. Adahi.

In 2009, US District Judge Gladys Kessler ordered the release of the Guantánamo detainee after concluding that the US government had failed to prove that he was a part of Al Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces.

“There is no reliable evidence in the record that [Adahi] was a trainer at Al Farouq, that he ever fought for al-Qaida and/or the Taliban, or that he affirmatively provided any actual support to al-Qaida and/or the Taliban,” Judge Kessler wrote.

“There is no reliable evidence in the record that [Adahi] was a member of al-Qaida and/or the Taliban,” she said.

The judge added: “While it is tempting to be swayed by the fact that [Adahi] readily acknowledged having met [Osama] Bin Laden on two occasions and admitted that perhaps his relatives were bodyguards and enthusiastic followers of Bin Laden, such evidence – sensational and compelling as it may appear – does not constitute actual, reliable evidence that would justify the Government’s detention of this man.”

A three-judge panel of the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reversed Kessler’s decision and her release order. Writing for the appeals-court panel, Judge A. Raymond Randolph said Kessler’s conclusions were “manifestly incorrect – indeed startling.”

Judge Randolph stated: “[T]here can be no doubt that [Adahi] was more likely than not part of al-Qaida.”

Among the government’s evidence:

• Adahi’s sister married a bin Laden associate, and Mr. bin Laden hosted a wedding celebration in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

• He met personally with bin Laden a few days later.

• He stayed in an Al Qaeda guesthouse that was used as a staging point for recruits headed to Al Qaeda’s Al Farouq training camp.

• He admitted attending the Al Farouq training camp (but was expelled less than two weeks later for violating Al Qaeda rules against smoking).

• He knew personally members of bin Laden’s security detail.

• He remained in Afghanistan after US combat operations began in 2001, was wounded, and was later captured fleeing the country in a bus with Taliban fighters.

While Kessler found the evidence skimpy and unconvincing, the appeals court said judges may not consider and dismiss each piece of evidence in isolation. Instead, judges must weigh the evidence as part of a larger whole, the appeals court said.

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