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Judge says US held Afghan man ‘unlawfully’ at Guantanamo Bay, paves way for his release

The Afghan man, Asadullah Haroon Gul, is the first Guantánamo Bay detainee in 10 years to win a habeas corpus case.

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New Delhi: In a landmark judgment, a US federal judge ruled Tuesday that the detention of an Afghan man at the notorious US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is ‘unlawful’.

According to reports, the US District Court Judge Amit Mehta, ruling on a petition of habeas corpus, rejected the US government’s arguments for continuing to hold the detainee, Asadullah Haroon Gul, in Guantanamo, paving the way for his potential release.

Though the ruling is yet to be made public, Gul’s lawyer told CNN that he won the case but could not provide further details, stating the information is classified.

“The outcome of the petition was that it was granted,” the lawyer, Tara Plochocki, confirmed to Al Jazeera too, adding that she was “delighted” by the judgment.

Gul is the first Guantánamo Bay detainee in 10 years to win a habeas corpus case. He has been detained since June 2007. In 2010, detainee Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s petition for writ of habeas corpus was granted by a US court, prompting a feature film about his struggle titled ‘The Mauritanian’ which released this year.

Habeas corpus is a recourse in law through which an individual can challenge unlawful detention or imprisonment, and successful challenges can lead to a detainee’s release.

After 9/11, under the George Bush-led US government, a military prison was built in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. It was selected because it was under full control of the US military but outside the US and therefore beyond the reach of American courts. The idea was that if detainees were not on US soil, they would have no legal right to seek an order of habeas corpus, however, in 2004, the US Supreme Court ruled that Guantanamo prisoners did, in fact, have habeas rights.

Following this, many American lawyers volunteered to represent Guantanamo detainees.

NGOs like US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) and UK-based Reprieve have welcomed Judge Mehta’s ruling.

Who is Asadullah Haroon Gul?

Gul is an Afghan man who grew up in a refugee camp in Pakistan. He was accused of being a member of an extremist group called Hezb-e-Islami/Gulbuddin (HIG), later known as Hezb-e-Islami Afghanistan (HIA). HIA was identified as an “associated force” of al Qaeda by the US government.

According to a CNN report, Gul admitted that he had been a member of HIG but his lawyers argued that the group entered into a peace treaty with the Afghanistan government in 2016.

Gul’s brother, Roman Khan, was quoted by NGO Reprieve as responding to the recent judgment by saying: “This is such happy, sweet news for our family. We now pray that Asadullah is sent back home quickly— where he belongs. The family has eyes only to see him again. We are all waiting for him. His wife, his young daughter Maryam, his parents, me, his nieces and nephews. He has spent more than 14 years of his life in this dangerous and terrible prison without charge. We are thankful to the judges and to everyone who continue to press for his freedom.”

India-born Judge Mehta, who ruled in this case, has presided over a few high-profile cases in the past including the US Justice Department’s crucial lawsuit against internet search giant Google in late 2020.

Also read: How US’ war on terror became a war in court — my 13 trips to Guantanamo Bay


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