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Judge: U.S. hiding evidence in detainee case

/ Source: The Associated Press

A U.S. judge on Tuesday accused the Bush administration of hiding evidence in the case of a Yemen man who has been held as a terror suspect at Guantanamo Bay for six years.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said he was forced to delay ruling on whether to free Aymen Saeed Batarfi because as many as 10 documents of classified information were withheld from the court until recently.

"I think it's unfair, I think it's disingenuous," Sullivan said during an hourlong hearing.

He added: "This government, especially, hides the ball when it suits this government's purpose."

In Tuesday's case, Justice Department attorneys admitted that at least some of the recently revealed documents dated back to September.

But Justice attorney John Henebery said the government did not believe the information had to be turned over immediately.

Information is classified
The information in the documents — compiled by the Defense Department and other government intelligence agencies — is unknown because it is classified. Much of the evidence in the cases of hundreds of detainees who are seeking release in U.S. District Court in Washington will never be made public.

Batarfi's attorneys say the 38-year-old Yemen doctor was first held by U.S. forces at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan in late 2001 and transferred to the U.S. naval station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in April 2002.

William J. Murphy, a Baltimore lawyer representing Batarfi, said the Yemeni was on a humanitarian aid mission on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border when he was injured and swept up by Northern Alliance forces, who turned him over to the U.S. Batarfi's lawyers maintain he was not assisting al-Qaida.

However, Justice Department attorney Chris Hardee said Batarfi was at one of al-Qaida's major battles.

"He wasn't just a charity worker," Hardee told Sullivan.

At least some of the evidence against Batarfi is hearsay, Sullivan said, although he added: "There's some pretty powerful allegations."

Both sides initially had wanted Sullivan to rule on whether to free Batarfi. But the judge said a review of the new documents would delay a decision until after a March 9 hearing.