Gitmo detainee challenges judge who halted case

AP News
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Posted: Nov 11, 2009 5:51 PM

A man from Tajikistan seeking his freedom from the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is challenging a practice among federal judges here who are short-circuiting the cases of some long-time detainees.

The Obama administration is trying to preempt some of the cases by declaring that a detainee is being cleared for release to a foreign country and asking the judge to stop the review.

In the case of Umar Hamzayevich Abdulayev, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton halted action after the government approved a transfer of Abdulayev to Tajikistan, where the detainee says he would be persecuted if sent there.

Abdulayev's argument is that his court case should continue and that he will be entitled to release into the United States if the government does not arrange for a safe country of asylum.

The judge "eviscerated the clear directives of the Supreme Court" that detainees at Guantanamo Bay have a right to challenge their detention in civilian courts, lawyers for the prisoner said in papers filed this week with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

If the government is allowed to ship Abdulayev off to the "unmonitored corners of Tajikistan's prisons" before he has even an opportunity to be heard, he will be deprived of his right to court review, his lawyers added.

Suspending his court case places Abdulayev "at risk of his worst possible fate: repatriation to torture," the court papers added.

While at Guantanamo Bay, Abdulayev has been interrogated on three occasions by officials of the Tajik government, who allegedly told him that because he had lived in Afghanistan he could work there for the Tajik government as a spy, an offer Abdulayev says he refused, triggering threats from his interrogators, according to the court papers.

In the past year, federal judges in Washington, D.C., have ordered the release of 30 detainees from Guantanamo Bay. In the cases of eight other detainees, the judges have rejected pleas for freedom. The total number of Guantanamo Bay detainee cases the judges are handling is about 250.

Abdulayev has been held at Guantanamo Bay for nearly eight years.

According to his lawyers, his family fled Tajikistan for Afghanistan when civil war erupted following the collapse of the Soviet Union. At the time, Abdulayev was 13.

Abdulayev's father was shot and killed when he and other refugees tried to return in 1994 after overtures from the Tajik government were broadcast over the radio in Afghanistan. There, escalating violence led to Abdulayev and his family moving again _ this time to Pakistan. Abdulayev was arrested by Pakistani police after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and turned over to the U.S. military.