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Court Order To Release Controversial Yemeni Snitch Could Cause More Problems at Gitmo

A Guantanamo Bay detainee who The Washington Post recently outed as a widely used but unreliable informant on his fellow prisoners won a court order for his release on Monday.

“In dozens of interviews over several years at the U.S. military prison — where he was rewarded with his own cell, McDonald’s apple pies, chewing tobacco, a truck magazine and other “comfort items” — Yasim Muhammed Basardah provided the evidence needed to continue detaining scores of alleged terrorists, military and FBI records show,” The Post’s Del Quentin Wilbur wrote in February.

But “military officials have expressed reservations about the credibility of their star witness since 2004,” the article continued. Those worries intensified when in January, a federal judge ordered another prisoner freed, saying Basardah’s testimony was not sufficiently reliable to justify the man’s confinement. On Monday, U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle, based on secret evidence presented in closed-door hearings, granted the habeas corpus petition of the 33-year-old Basardah.

According to The Post story, during a military hearing, Basardah said: “I am cooperative to the point where my cooperation with everyone has led many people threatening my life … therefore I cannot go back to my own country … They will not hesitate to kill me or anyone in my family.”

Because of that, and perhaps also because Basardah is from Yemen — to which, as I wrote on Monday, the government is having serious trouble returning prisoners — it’s not clear when Basardah will actually get to leave the Guantanamo prison, despite yesterday’s court order.

But some lawyers for detainees on Monday were predicting that Basardah’s release could spark widespread anger among the detainees who have not been cleared to go — some because of testimony provided by Basardah against them.

“The men will be outraged when they learn that Basardah has been ordered released,” David Remes, the executive director of Appeal for Justice who is representing 15 Yemeni detainees at Guantanamo, told me yesterday just after learning about the order.

“First, the government released Salim Hamdan, who was convicted of aiding terrorism,” explained Remes in a follow-up e-mail. “Then, it released Binyam Mohammed, who was charged with terrorism-related crimes. Then, it orders the release of [Ayman Saeed] Batarfi, who was accused of heading an organization on the State Department’s list of terrorist groups. And now, they order the release of Basardah, who is reputed to have falsely implicated scores of men.”

Remes worries that the order to release Basardah — even if he doesn’t actually get to leave just yet — could cause more dissension and unrest among the remaining prisoners.

“It was Hamdan’s release in November that sparked the current wave of hunger strikes,” said Remes. “With the new order to release Basardah, the number of prisoners on hunger strikes will likely explode.”

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