Guantanamo detainee Mohamed el Gharani 'must be released'

A 21-year-old citizen of Chad who has been held for seven years at the US military jail at Guantánamo Bay must be released, a federal judge in Washington DC ruled last night.

US District Judge Richard Leon said the government had not proven that Mohamed el Gharani was an enemy combatant and said the detainee, who was 14 when he arrived at Guantánamo, must be released and sent home soon.

The ruling comes just days before President-elect Barack Obama, who has vowed to close the prison camp, takes office on Tuesday.

Over the past month federal judges in Washington have been moving ahead with case-by-case reviews of about 200 detainee legal challenges. The review by civilian courts on the US mainland are happening because of a Supreme Court ruling in June 2006 which gave the terror suspects the right to challenge their detention in federal court.

Gharani, also known as Yousuf Al Karany, was arrested in Pakistan in 2001 and taken to Guantánamo Bay in early 2002.

The Bush administration had said that Gharani had stayed in an al-Qaeda guest house in Afghanistan, had fought in the battle of Tora Bora - from where Osama bin Laden escaped in late 2001 - and had served as a courier for senior al Qaeda operatives. He was also accused of being a member of a London-based al-Qaeda cell.

Judge Leon said the government could not prove any of the allegations. He said they relied mainly on information from two other detainees at Guantánamo Bay whose reliability and credibility was questionable. He is unlikely to be released soon, however, because it is not clear if the government of Chad will accept him.

[Source: The Times, London, UK, 15Jan09]

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