A military review has determined that a second prisoner held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is wrongly classified as an enemy combatant, and he will be released to his home country soon, a Pentagon official said yesterday.
Navy Secretary Gordon England would not provide the man's name or nationality, and the circumstances of his original capture were not immediately available. The State Department has been notified of the decision and will make arrangements to return him home.
The prisoner would be the second to be released under a military process instituted to help satisfy the Supreme Court's ruling this summer that prisoners at Guantanamo could challenge their detentions through the U.S. court system.
To bolster its case for each of the prisoners against any such challenge, the Pentagon set up tribunals to review the circumstances of their capture and other factors to determine whether they are properly held. The military has conducted 507 of those tribunals and has about 50 to complete, England said. In 292 cases, the prisoner took part in the hearing and the rest refused, England said. Both of the prisoners released spoke in their own defense.
In the hearings, formally called combatant status review tribunals, a three-person panel studies the prisoner's case and forwards its findings to Rear Adm. James M. McGarrah, who issues a final ruling.
He has concurred with the panel 230 times -- to release two prisoners and to continue holding 228 others. The rest of the cases are pending.
England stopped short of saying the latest prisoner determined to be wrongly classified as an enemy combatant had been held as a mistake.
"I don't think there's a right or wrong answer to this. I think this is a gray area," he said.
Another 200 Guantanamo prisoners have been released through other arrangements; some have been freed outright and others have been turned over to the custody of their home countries.
Of those, England said, at least 12 are known to have returned to the battlefield.
"You don't want to release people who could harm Americans or other people," England said. "On the other hand, people do have rights."