Judge Orders 5 Gitmo Detainees Freed, But Govt May Appeal
A federal judge this morning ordered five detainees freed from Guantanamo Bay, according to the New York Times.
Following closed-door hearings in which the Dept. of Justice presented its full justification for holding the five Algerian men, detained in Bosnia in 2001 and held in Guantanamo Bay for the last seven years, Judge Richard J. Leon of Federal District Court in Washington ruled that the government had presented insufficient evidence to continue holding the men. (He did allow them to continue holding one other prisoner about whom the DOJ also presented evidence.)
Included among the men freed was Lakhdar Boumediene, the subject of the landmark case, Boumediene v. Bush, which established their right to habeas corpus proceedings.
The Times also notes, however, that the men aren’t likely to be immediately let go, either; Dept. of Justice lawyers are expected to appeal.
In a statement issued this afternoon, the DOJ said that while it was pleased it was permitted to hold onto one of the detainees, “we are . . . disappointed by, and disagree with, the Court’s decision that we did not carry our burden of proof with respect to the other detainees.”
The DOJ added: “we are promptly reviewing the decision with respect to the other five petitioners. But we also think that this ruling demonstrates the need for Congress to enact procedures that allow these petitions to be adjudicated in a way that is fair to the detainee but that allows the Government to present its case without imperiling national security.”
The Judge in the case, however, Judge Richard Leon, in an unusual statement actually asked the government not to appeal the ruling, saying that, as reported on SCOTUS blog: “seven years of waiting for our legal system to give them an answer to their legal question is enough.”
The DOJ has been working hard in recent weeks to keep the habeas corpus cases filed by hundreds of detainees from moving forward, even though the Supreme Court ruled in the Boumediene case in June that they’re entitled to challenge their detention. On Tuesday, Justice Dept. lawyers filed an opposition to an order by another federal district court judge handling the cases of more than 100 Guantanamo detainees. The judge had ordered the government to turn over the legal and factual basis for holding the men, and all exculpatory evidence.
On Tuesday, the government opposed the judge’s order. In an e-mail sent to lawyers handling the cases last week, the government lawyers had called the court’s order to turn over evidence “legally inappropriate and unworkable.”