Judge Orders Release of Yemeni Prisoner From Guantanamo

By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 21, 2009; 7:19 PM

A federal judge has ordered the release of a Yemeni from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, ruling that the man's brief stint at an Al Qaeda training camp and two encounters with Osama Bin Laden were not enough to justify his confinement.

The ruling came in a federal lawsuit brought by Mohammed al-Adahi, 47, who has been held at the military prison since 2002. The Justice Department argued it could hold Aldahi because he attended a wedding at Bin Laden's house in Afghanistan. The men talked at one point about religion in Adahi's native Yemen, according to U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler.

After the wedding, Kessler wrote, Adahi stayed at an Al Qaeda guest house and trained at an Al Qaeda military camp for seven to 10 days. He was expelled for failing to obey the camp's rules, Kessler wrote.

In a 47-page opinion made public Friday, Kessler wrote that the allegations were not strong enough to justify Adahi's continued detention. Adahi's "brief attendance at Al Farouq and eventual expulsion simply do not bring him within the ambit of the Executive's power to detain," she wrote.

The judge added that "there is no reliable evidence in the record that [Adahi] was a member of al-Qaeda and/or the Taliban."

She then ordered the government to engage in diplomatic efforts to facilitate Adahi's release. Adahi's attorney, Brian Spahn, said he was "ecstatic." "Hopefully, he can be sent back to Yemen and reunited with his family," Spahn said.

The ruling was one of two in recent weeks in lawsuits brought by about 200 detainees challenging their confinements under the centuries-old legal doctrine of habeas corpus. In the other case, U.S. District Judge James Robertson ruled the government may continue to detain Adham Mohammed Ali Awad, also a Yemeni. The government alleged that the 27-year-old had trained with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and was badly injured in an air strike. Though the nature of the injury was redacted in Robertson's opinion, other public military records say that Awad lost a leg in the bombing.

He and other fighters barricaded themselves in a hospital. The others fought to the death, but Awad was left behind because he was too badly injured, the government alleged.

Though Robertson ruled that the government had met its burden in the case, the judge was less than impressed.

"The case against Awad is gossamer thin," he wrote.

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