[Ppnews] Judge rules 1 Night at Guest House Not Grounds for Indefinite Guantanamo Detention
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jun 11 17:57:30 EDT 2010
One Night at a Zubaydah-Related Guest House Not
Grounds for Indefinite Detention
Friday June 11, 2010 6:24 am
yesterday, Judge Henry Kennedy granted a the
habeas petition of a Yemeni man, Mohamed Hassan
Odaini, several weeks ago. That brings the total
number of men held at Gitmo who have won habeas petitions to 36.
reveals not just his exasperation with the
governments arguments, but also the absurd
lengths to which the government is going to try
to keep some of these men at Gitmo. While much of
the ruling remains classified, the government is
effectively trying to argue that Odaini must
remain at Gitmo because he spent one night at a
guest house with alleged ties to Abu Zubaydah
(that night happened to be the night the US
raided the house and captured its inhabitants),
and that one night is all the proof they need to
argue that the of evidence showing hes just a
student must be a cover story to hide an affiliation with al Qaeda.
As Kennedy lays out in detail, 12 other Gitmo
detainees discussed the safe house in ways that
were consistent with Odainis own story, and
eight of them specifically identified him as a
student who had been at the house for just a day
or so before the raid. At least six
timesstarting back in 2002different people
associated with his detention declared him to be
appropriate for release. That includes a June
2009 notice from the Gitmo Task Force that he
could be transferred (which is not necessarily
release, mind you). Yet between a stay and the
moratorium on the release of Yemeni detainees put
in place after the Christmas bombing attempt, Odaini remains in custody.
But, the government still argues that Odainis
detention is legalbased partly on the fact that
he was at that guest house when they raided it.
Pursuant to an order the Court issued in advance
of the merits hearing in this case, the parties
identified the issues in dispute and structured
their presentations to address each issue in turn
during the hearing. Accordingly, respondents
first argued that Odainis stay in Issa House
supports the conclusion that he is lawfully
detained and second that his version of events is
so implausible as to further support denial of
the writ of habeas corpus. Both arguments fail.
Respondents insist that Odaini s presence at
lssa House demonstrates that he is part of the Al
Qaeda-affiliated network of a man named Abu
Zubaydah. They vehemently argue that the fact
that the occupants of Issa House allowed Odaini
to come inside demonstrates that he was, like them, part of this network.
Much of the discussion surrounding the
governments argument is redacted. But its clear
that at least part of itapparently, the
governments theory of guest housesis based on
dubious expertise. Following one passage that is redacted, Kennedy wrote,
Based on this statement, respondents argue that
the Court should find that Odaini is part of Al
Qaeda and therefore lawfully detained. The Court
will not do so. It is standard practice to tell
jurors evaluating expert testimony that ifthey
[find] that the opinion is not based on
sufficient education or experience,
supporting the opinion are not sound, or
opinion is outweighed by other evidence, [they
may] completely or partially disregard the opinion.
Which raises the question of whether the
redactions serve to hide classified
informationor the governments own dubious
claims about the culture of guest houses (one of
the few other unredacted passages in this section
refute the claims made in the redacted section
about the security of guest houses).
The government also appears to have projected
interrogators own questions onto detainees as
knowledge. This passage, for example, seems to be
a response to government claims that Odaini must
have known Abu Zubaydah because along the course
of his interrogation he came to recognize a photo
and the name of Abu Zubaydah because he had been
shown it so frequently by previous interrogators.
Odaini also denied ever having seen Abu Zubaydah.
JE 7 at 1 ((Odaini] was shown a photograph of
Abu Zubaida. [Odaini] advised that he recognized
the photograph because previous Interviewers
showed it to him. [Odaini] stated that he heard
of the name Abu Zubaida from previous American Interviewers.).
Ultimately, Kennedy argues that the presence of
potentially bad people at the safe house does not
mean that Odaini himself is bad.
Kennedy then goes onto refute the governments
arguments that some minor inconsistencies in
Odainis story (such as that his father got him a
cheaper medical visa to Pakistan rather than a
student visa) means he must be lying to cover up
the fact that hes an al Qaeda sympathizer. One
way Kennedy does so is to point out that the
government, which seized on a very small
inconsistency in what one of eight safe house
inhabitants said about Odaini, yetas Kennedy
notescant even keep their own records accurately.
The Court notes here for the purpose of
emphasizing that the documents that serve as
evidence in this case contain errors, whether of
translation or reporting, that two of the
interrogation reports in the record indicates
that Odaini was born in April rather than September.
But what really appears to piss off Kennedy is
the governments insistence that any
inconsistency is proof that Odaini is telling a
cover story to hide an affiliation with al
Qaedain spite of the fact that they have zero
evidence that he has ties to al Qaeda.
Respondents argue that this visa and Odainis
statements about it demonstrate that he is a
liar. It is only possible-and barely possible-to
reach this conclusion if one begins with the view
that Odaini is a part of Al Qaeda and searches
for a way to believe that allegation regardless
of its inconsistency with an objective view of
the evidence. Odaini has said repeatedly that his
father arranged for his passport and visa, so
anything questionable about those documents
cannot be imputed to Odaini, who was a
seventeen-year-old high school student at the time they were obtained.
Kennedy finally has to remind the government that
the absence of evidence about al Qaeda does not
constitute evidence of a cover-up to hide an al Qaeda affiliation.
Respondents also argue that Odainis assertion
that he was a student is a cover story the
occupants of lssa House had agreed to use. Only
by refusing to deviate from a predetermined
conclusion could this explanation ofconsistent
statements from so many men over so many years
seem at all reasonable. This theory ignores the
fact that several occupants of the house did not
claim to be students but nevertheless said that
Odaini was a student. See 1£ 18 at2;JE 53at3; JE
46 at 9, 15. Furthermore, to find that Odainis
version of events is a cover story in the
complete absence of information suggesting that
he was anything other than a student would render
meaningless the principle of law that places the
burden of proof on respondents rather than Odaini.
Remember how we got into the Iraq War based on
false claims that Iraq must have WMD because
every explanation they offered (such as that the
mobile trailers were used for helium balloons and
that the aluminum tubes were used for rockets)
must be a cover story? The government is still
making the same crappy argument about cover stories.
Update: Andy Worthington corrected me on one
really crucial point in this post: Odaini wasnt
at the guest house with Abu Zubaydah; he was just
at a guest house the government claims was
associated with Abu Zubaydah! Heres
post for more details. Ive updated this post accordingly.
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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