- The Washington Times - Friday, November 21, 2008

A federal judge in Washington on Thursday freed five of six Guantanamo Bay detainees accused by the U.S. government of supporting al Qaeda’s military efforts against the U.S. Army and its allies.

U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon said that the five Algerian terror suspects could not be held indefinitely as “enemy combatants” and that the government failed to prove the classified documents used as evidence against them were reliable.

The men — who listened to the decision via a telephone hookup to the U.S. military prison in Cuba — have been held for almost seven years. This is the first civilian court ruling for terror suspects who are challenging their detention.

One of the men to be released is Lakhdar Boumediene, whose landmark Supreme Court case in June gave detainees the right to challenge their imprisonment in the facility, which was set up in 2002 after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

For a sixth detainee who will not be released, the judge said the evidence showed he used false names and fake passports to help al Qaeda operatives travel to battle sites in Afghanistan.

Judge Leon said his ruling in this case is unique and may not to apply most of the other about 270 Guantanamo detainees.

As a result of the ruling, the judge ordered the five other detainees, including Mr. Boumediene, to be released immediately, pending further proceedings that allow them to challenge the lawfulness of their detention.

All six detainees have claimed that detaining them was unlawful under the U.S. Constitution and international law. They were originally detained by Bosnian authorities in late 2001 and sent to Guantanamo a few months later, to be held as enemy combatants.

At the time, President Bush said the six men had planned a bomb attack on the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo. The U.S. government also believed that the six planned to side with al Qaeda and fight in Afghanistan.

The claims of other detainees will now be held on a case-by-case basis. But change is surely imminent. During his campaign, President-elect Barack Obama promised to close the prison camp after he takes office in January.

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