Moral Outrage
Whew! God help us!

So what happened to closing Guantánamo?

The 172 men still held at Guantánamo are treated with scorn by the administration of Barack Obama, the standard bearer of “hope” and “change,” who promised to close Guantánamo and to do away with “the dark halls of Abu Ghraib and the detention cells of Guantánamo, [where] we have compromised our most precious values.”

Last week, the D.C. Circuit Court reversed a ruling made in February by Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. of the District Court, in the case of Uthman Abdul Rahim Mohammed Uthman, a Yemeni held at Guantánamo without charge or trial since the prison opened in January 2002.

Last February, after examining all the government’s supposed evidence against Uthman, Judge Kennedy ruled that none of the government’s supposed evidence was reliable. The reason for this, Judge Kennedy concluded, was because the government’s supposed evidence consisted of statements produced by other prisoners who had been tortured, and whose testimony was therefore unreliable, as well as other witnesses whose statements were also considered to be untrustworthy.

This could have been the end of the story, and Uthman could have been released, were it not for the fact that he is a Yemeni, and the month before he won his petition, President Obama bowed to hysteria following the announcement that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the failed Christmas Day plane bomber, had been recruited in Yemen by announcing an immediate, open-ended moratorium on releasing any Yemenis from Guantánamo.

Other inmates held for years without charge or trial include Mohammed Hassan Odaini, a student who had been seized while staying the night with other students at their university dorm in Faisalabad, Pakistan. Many of the other students staying in the dorm are still held, but Odaini was lucky because a judge reached the point where he was satisfied that he could make a ruling on his habeas petition, and forcefully explained that the US government had no reason for having deprived Odaini of eight years of his life, when intelligence officials knew, almost from the moment of his capture, that he was an innocent man. It also helped that his case was picked up by the Washington Post, which ran an editorial.

Last Tuesday, however, Judge Kavanaugh of the D.C. Circuit Court, who wrote the judges’ opinion, declared, “that the government doesn’t need direct evidence that a detainee fought for or was a member of al-Qaeda in order to justify a detention.”

Jonathan Hafetz, a professor at Seton Hall Law School, who has represented several Guantánamo prisoners complained that the Circuit Court’s ruling “significantly favors the government in ways the Supreme Court did not intend when it granted detainees the right to challenge detentions.”

[Excerpts from Andy Worthington, author of The Guantánamo Files]

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