[Ppnews] Judge orders Guantanamo detainee freed

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Jan 15 12:44:08 EST 2009

Judge orders Guantanamo detainee freed

Jesse J. Holland, Associated Press

Thursday, January 15, 2009

(01-15) 04:00 PST Washington --

A federal judge ordered the military Wednesday to release one of its 
first Guantanamo Bay detainees, a 21-year-old man who has been 
detained and accused of being a terrorist since he was 14.

Mohammed el Gharani, who is Chadian but had lived in Saudi Arabia, 
should be released from the U.S. prison in Cuba immediately, U.S. 
District Judge Richard Leon said in a ruling from the bench.

The military had accused el Gharani of being part of al Qaeda, 
working for the Taliban and fighting U.S. forces in Afghanistan. But 
Leon said those accusations were based on testimony from other 
Guantanamo Bay detainees, which he found unreliable.

"Simply stated, a mosaic of tiles bearing images this murky reveals 
nothing about the petitioner with sufficient clarity, either 
individually or collectively, that can be relied upon by this court," 
Leon said.

El Gharani listened to the ruling live by telephone from Cuba but did 
not react.

He could be on his way home to his family in a few weeks, lawyer 
Zackary Katznelson said. "Judge Leon did justice today."

The government can appeal Leon's decision.

"We're disappointed by the ruling and will consider our options," 
Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said.

El Gharani was arrested in Pakistan in 2001 at a mosque by local 
police and turned over to U.S. forces in 2002. He was one of the 
first Guantanamo Bay detainees and also one of the youngest.

He was accused of receiving military training from al Qaeda in 
Afghanistan and serving as a courier for high-ranking members. He 
also is accused of fighting against U.S. and coalition forces at the 
battle of Tora Bora in Afghanistan in late 2001 and of being a member 
of an al Qaeda cell based in London in 1998.

El Gharani denied all of the accusations.

The government's only evidence is statements made by two other 
Guantanamo Bay detainees whose credibility and reliability has been 
called into question by government personnel, Leon said.

For example, el Gharani's lawyers pointed out that he would have been 
11 in 1998, when he is accused of being part of an al Qaeda cell in England.

And "putting aside the obvious and unanswered questions as to how a 
Saudi minor from a very poor family could have even become a member 
of a London-based cell, the government simply advances no 
corroborating evidence for these statements it believes to be 
reliable from a fellow detainee, the basis of whose knowledge is - at 
best - unknown," Leon said.


This article appeared on page A - 13 of the San Francisco Chronicle

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