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Pentagon Tentatively Drops Charges Against Gitmo Detainee Already Returned Home

It took the Pentagon almost four months since a federal court ruled the government lacked sufficient evidence against Fouad al Rabia, but late last week — a day after the 50-year-old airline executive was flown home on a Kuwaiti royal jet — the U.S. military commission dropped its charges against him.

As Carol Rosenberg at The Miami Herald reports, though, the charges were dropped last Thursday “without prejudice” — meaning the same charges could still be re-filed against him.

The government had originally accused al Rabia of providing “material support” to al-Qaeda by running a supply depot at the battle of Tora Bora during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. But after imprisoning him for eight years, a U.S. District Court judge in September ruled that the evidence against him was “surprisingly bare” and not credible. Even government interrogators hadn’t believed it, the judge noted. She also ruled that al Rabia had been coerced and abused into “confessing” to activities which likely had been committed by someone else with a similar nickname.

Al Rabiah’s lawyers, meanwhile, demanded an investigation into their client’s treatment by U.S. officials, but as in the case of Mohammed Jawad, whose defense lawyer similarly sought an investigation into his abuse, the lawyers received no response.

Although the government did not appeal the district court’s order that the government was detaining al Rabia unlawfully, the Pentagon still refused for months to drop the military commission charges against him.

His return to Kuwait appears to have forced the military’s hand. Although he’s not likely to be charged again, the dismissal “without prejudice” may be the military’s way of avoiding an implicit admission that U.S. officials picked up the wrong guy in the first place.

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