Judge Rules Torture Broke Bonds of Terrorist Group Membership
Finding that Guantanamo Bay detainee Abdulrahim Abdul Razak Al Ginco was no longer “part of” the Taliban or al-Qaeda after he was imprisoned and tortured by the groups, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon on Monday granted his petition for habeas corpus.
Al Ginco — who goes by “Janko” — is a Syrian citizen who was arrested by U.S. forces in Afghanistan in January 2002, deemed an “enemy combatant” and sent to Guantanamo Bay. He’s been held there without charge ever since.
Although much of the evidence in his case is classified, according to Leon, the government’s evidence essentially boiled down to the fact that Janko had traveled to Afghanistan, stayed at a guesthouse that was also used by Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters for about five days in 2000, and attended a terrorist training camp for approximately two weeks. (Janko says he was forced to stay at the guest house and attend the camp.)
After he asked to leave the training camp, however, Janko claims — and the government “effectively concedes”, says Leon — that he was brutally tortured by al-Qaeda until he “confessed” that he was a U.S. spy, and imprisoned for more than 18 months at a notoriously brutal prison in Kandahar. He escaped, along with the rest of the prisoners, when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan. Yet the U.S. government insisted that Janko was still “part of” the Taliban or al-Qaeda when he was seized by U.S. forces.
The government’s position “defies common sense,” wrote Leon in an opinion issued yesterday. “[T]he relationship that existed in 2000 — such as it was — no longer existed *whatsoever *in 2002 when Janko was taken into custody.”
Even in 2000, the relationship was “in its formative stage,” Leon wrote. “To say the least, five days at a guesthouse in Kabul combined with eighteen days at a training camp does not add up to a longstanding bond of brotherhood.” The terrorists’ subsequent torture and imprisonment of Janko, “evinces a total evisceration of whatever relationship might have existed!” (The opinion is peppered with exclamation points.)
In sum, Judge Leon ruled, the government failed to establish that Janko “was lawfully detainable as an enemy combatant” when he was taken into custody seven and a half years ago, and ordered the government “to take all necessary and appropriate diplomatic steps to facilitate his release forthwith.”
The case is the latest in a string of losses for — and stinging rebukes against — the government in detainee cases. In May, Judge Gladys Kessler rejected the government’s “mosaic theory” of the evidence in the case of Alla Ali Bin Ali Ahmed, held by the United States since 2002, when he was a teenager. The government’s case similarly rested on claims that Ahmed had stayed at a particular guesthouse or named by other prisoners who’d been tortured. Concluding that the government had nothing more solid than “guilt by association,” she granted Ahmed’s petition and ordered his release.
Although the government has lost about three-quarters of the habeas cases decided so far, most of the petitioners who’ve won are still awaiting their release.