Detainee’s release is put on hold
Case needs second look, court orders
WASHINGTON — An appeals court yesterday overturned a judge’s order for the release of a Guantanamo Bay detainee accused of helping Al Qaeda recruit two men who became Sept. 11 hijackers.
A lower-court judge had ruled that Mohamedou Ould Salahi should be freed after eight years in the US military prison in Cuba because he was abused by interrogators, which tainted the evidence against him. Other classified information was insufficient to support a criminal prosecution, the judge ruled. Salahi, 40, retracted his confession to persuading two men to travel to Afghanistan to train for jihad.
A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected the Obama administration’s request to order Salahi’s continued detention. But the judges agreed that the lower court must reconsider the case, given new legal opinions in other Guantanamo lawsuits. ‘That court, lacking the benefit of these recent cases, left unresolved key factual questions necessary for us to determine as a matter of law whether Salahi was part of Al Qaeda when captured,’’ Judge David Tatel wrote in an opinion supported by judges David Sentelle and Janice Rogers Brown.
Salahi admits he joined Al Qaeda when he was a college student in the early 1990s to fight communists in Afghanistan. But he says he stopped fighting for the organization before it turned against the United States.
The 9/11 Commission report described Salahi as a significant Al Qaeda operative who helped hijackers reach Afghanistan to train for jihad. The Justice Department said that in October 1999, Salahi convinced Ramzi bin al Shibh, Marwan al Shehhi, and Ziad Jarrah to change their plans to travel to Chechnya to wage jihad against Russian forces and instead to go to Afghanistan to receive military training. Once in Afghanistan, they were picked by Al Qaeda for roles in the Sept. 11 plot. Shehhi and Jarrah became hijackers, and bin al Shibh helped coordinate the attack.
The Justice Department argues that Salahi still was a member of Al Qaeda when he was arrested on Sept. 29, 2001, because he swore an Islamic oath, or bayat, when he joined, and continued to associate with and support its members.