- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Eleven men challenged their continued detention at Guantanamo Bay in court on Wednesday, telling a judge they believe they might have been released by now but for anti-Muslim bias on the part of President Trump.

The men also said it appears they’re being kept indefinitely, given that they are being held under the terms of the 2001 authorization for use of force against al Qaeda — a legal construct they argue is outdated.

“It is totally boundless,” Baher Azmy, legal director at Center for Constitutional Rights representing some of the prisoners, told the court. “The fact that someone may have associated with the Taliban, al Qaeda 16 years ago — it doesn’t mean they will return to the battlefield.”

The detained men have been held for anywhere between 10 and 16 years at Guantanamo Bay. Two of them had previously been scheduled for transfers to Morocco and Saudi Arabia during the Obama administration, but their release was never completed.

Mr. Azmy asked Judge Thomas F. Hogan, a Reagan appointee, to order the Trump administration to release the detainees unless it shows evidence of prosecutable charges.

He said the policy instead seems to be controlled by “Trump’s animosity towards Muslims.”

But the government contends the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force is valid, and since the war against terrorist groups is still ongoing in Afghanistan the detainees can legally be kept at Guantanamo Bay.

“We could hold them for 100 years if the conflict lasted 100 years,” said Ronald J. Wiltsie, a Justice Department lawyer. “Under the laws of war, we can continue to detain them.”

Mr. Wiltsie said transfers could occur in the future, but none will happen tomorrow.

Mr. Azmy said one detainee has been released under Mr. Trump, though he said the schedule had been locked in during the Obama administration.

In comparison, President George W. Bush released 532 of the 780 prisoners who were placed at Guantanamo during his administration, while President Obama released 197.

Forty-one detainees currently remain at the detention center.

Sharqawi Al Hajj, a 43-year-old man from Yemen who is one of the Muslims challenging his detention, said in a press release that the government appears to intend to detain him until there’s no terrorism left in the world — something he said is impossible.

“Let’s even assume I did wrong 17 years ago, but that I want to change and have changed. Where is there room for that? The government doesn’t want to hear about it,” he said.

Mr. Trump signed an executive order earlier this year revoking Mr. Obama’s order that the prison at Guantanamo Bay be closed.

The judge said it appears the administration does have a de-facto, unannounced policy of not transferring any detainees from the detention facility.

Judge Hogan appeared sympathetic to the detainees, saying they’ve presented substantial issues. But he noted there’s precedent from higher courts upholding with the AUMF and permitting detention during times of war.


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