A Yemeni man's family ties to Osama bin Laden and admission that he met with the terrorist mastermind in the weeks before the Sept. 11 attacks are not enough to continue holding him at Guantanamo Bay, a judge wrote in an order released Friday.
U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler ruled that Muhammed al-Adahi, 47, must be released after seven years at the U.S. detention facility in Cuba.
Al-Adahi testified that in July 2001 he took his sister to Afghanistan for a celebration of her arranged marriage to a man the United States alleges was a bin Laden bodyguard. The wedding was at bin Laden's house, and al-Adahi said he was introduced to bin Laden there for the first time and then met briefly with him again a few days later. He said bin Laden summoned him and for about five to 10 minutes asked about the religious community in Yemen.
Kessler wrote, "While it is tempting to be swayed by the fact that petitioner readily acknowledged having met bin Laden on two occasions and admitted that perhaps his relatives were bodyguards and enthusiastic followers of bin Laden, such evidence — sensational and compelling as it may appear — does not constitute actual, reliable evidence that would justify the government's detention of this man."
Justice Department attorneys argued the associations demonstrate that al-Adahi was an al-Qaida insider whose brother-in-law was facilitating his rise up the ranks of the terrorist organization. After the wedding, al-Adahi allegedly spent the night at an al-Qaida guesthouse and trained at the Al Farouq terrorist camp for seven to 10 days before he was kicked out for disobeying orders.
"This training represents the strongest basis that the government has for detaining Al-Adahi," Kessler wrote. But she said al-Adahi's "brief attendance at Al Farouq and eventual expulsion simply do not bring him within the ambit of the executive's power to detain."
Al-Adahi's testimony in the case was made via videoconference from Guantanamo Bay. Kessler had ordered that an unclassified version of the video be publicly released, but Justice Department attorneys revealed a month later that no recording was made because of because of oversight and miscommunication. A lightly redacted transcript was released.
The government lawyers apologized to al-Adahi and the court. But Al-Adahi's attorneys have asked for sanctions, including his release, because of the violation of the court order. Kessler wrote in a footnote to her order that she's still considering the request for sanctions but did not otherwise mention the videotape in her reasons for ordering his release.
Al-Adahi is one of scores of Guantanamo detainees suing in U.S. District Court in Washington for their release. Judges there so far have ordered the release of at least 29 detainees, although many still remain at the prison since no country will agree to take them.
The judges have denied requests for release by at least six others — most recently another Yemeni named Adham Mohammed Al Awad who the United States argued became an al-Qaida fighter in the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks.
U.S. District Judge James Robertson ruled in an opinion released this week that although the case against Awad is "gossamer-thin" and the evidence "has very little weight," it appears he was part of al-Qaida for some time and therefore is being legally detained at Guantanamo.
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