Sunday, August 23, 2009

U.S. judge orders Guantanamo prisoner released

U.S. judge orders Guantanamo prisoner released

Fri Aug 21, 2009 10:45pm EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Yemeni prisoner held since 2002 in the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay must be freed because there is no evidence he belonged to al Qaeda or was a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden, a U.S. judge said in a decision published on Friday.

Mohammed Adahi is one of 29 detainees who have been ordered released from Guantanamo, a controversial prison on a U.S. Navy base in Cuba that has housed suspected militants since the September 11 attacks on the United States by al Qaeda in 2001.

"There is no reliable evidence in the record that (Adahi) was a member of al Qaeda and/or the Taliban," U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler wrote in her decision.

Prosecutors had argued Adahi was a trainer at an al Qaeda camp and had close ties to militants.

Adahi met Osama bin Laden at a family wedding held in bin Laden's compound in Kandahar, Afghanistan, Kessler wrote.

He later stayed overnight at an al Qaeda guesthouse, and attended a training camp for seven to 10 days, from which he was expelled for failing to obey the rules.

Kessler wrote "it is tempting to be swayed by the fact that (Adahi) 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," she wrote.

Kessler ordered the government to take "diplomatic steps" needed to release Adahi.

There are about 229 detainees still at Guantanamo, some of whom have been cleared to be sent home. Another six prisoners have had their petitions to be released denied.

The administration of President Barack Obama wants to close the prison, opened by the administration of his predecessor George W. Bush, early next year.

The U.S. government has been widely criticized for detaining the suspects for years without trial and for the use of interrogation methods that some see as torture.

Washington has been negotiating with Saudi Arabia to take in Yemeni detainees so they can enter rehabilitation programs rather than return to Yemen because of fears al Qaeda elements actively operate there.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton and Jeremy Pelofsky; Editing by John O'Callaghan)

© Thomson Reuters 2009.

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