- The Washington Times - Friday, November 21, 2008

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

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

He directed that the five men be released “forthwith” and urged the government not to appeal. The men 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.

The judge ordered Mr. Boumediene and four other detainees to be released immediately, though he did not reveal the conditions of their release.

Officials in Bosnia, meanwhile, have already agreed to allow the detainees to enter that country - which had been their adopted home before they were imprisoned.

For a sixth detainee, who will not be released, Judge Leon said the evidence showed he used false names and fake passports to travel between countries while helping al Qaeda operatives prepare for battle against the U.S. military in Afghanistan.

The case against the men focused on whether the evidence showed they were “enemy combatants” under a definition Judge Leon issued on Oct. 27. For the five ordered freed Thursday, “the government relies exclusively on the evidence of a classified document from an unnamed source,” the judge said.

He said his ruling in this case is unique and may not to apply to most of the other 250 Guantanamo detainees.

All six detainees had asserted 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 - suspected of planning a bomb attack on the U.S. Embassy in Bosnia.

Prosecutors later said they would no longer use allegations of a bomb plot to justify holding the men.

“In the last two months, they dropped about every charge” as weaknesses in the government’s evidence became apparent, said Stephen H. Oleskey, a lawyer for the detainees.

“It collapsed in front of the judge and that’s what you heard today,” Mr. Oleskey said.

The Justice Department blamed the court ruling to free five of the six detainees on a lack of guidance from the Supreme Court and Congress on procedural rules.

“These cases present extraordinary circumstances where wartime enemies have been captured abroad and are being detained based often on the same sort of classified intelligence relied upon by the military in conducting wartime operations,” said Peter Carr, Justice Department spokesman. “Today´s decision is perhaps an understandable consequence of the fact that neither the Supreme Court nor Congress has provided rules on how these habeas corpus cases should proceed in this unprecedented context.”

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