(CN) – The D.C. Circuit on Tuesday overturned a judge’s decision to release a Yemeni man with family ties to Osama bin Laden, saying the government offered “strong evidence” that he was part of al-Qaida.
The federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., disagreed with U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler’s assessment of the case, saying she “clearly erred in [her] treatment of the evidence and in [her] view of the law.”
Kessler had ruled that the evidence against Muhammed al-Adahi – “compelling and sensational as it may appear – does not constitute actual, reliable evidence that would justify the government’s detention of this man.”
But the D.C. Circuit said Kessler reached this decision “through a series of legal errors.”
“In all, there can be no doubt that al-Adahi was more likely than not part of al-Qaida,” Judge A. Raymond Randolph wrote for the three-judge panel.
Al-Adahi had admitted that his relatives had links to the terrorist group, and that he had briefly met bin Laden at a wedding celebration for his sister.
He also admitted attending an al-Qaida training camp, but was expelled after a week for violating the camp’s rules against smoking.
Kessler had interpreted the expulsion as a sign that al-Adahi did not “receive and execute” orders.
“This was error,” Judge Randolph wrote. “One would not say that an Army trainee ceased to be part of the Army if he failed to shine his shoes or overslept one morning.”
Randolph characterized al-Adahi as “an individual who had met with bin Laden, had stayed in an al-Qaida guesthouse, and had trained in an al-Qaida camp.”
He added that Judge Kessler “displayed little skepticism” about al-Adahi’s explanation of his actions, even though al-Qaida members are instructed to lie when interrogated.
“To the extent the court expressed any doubts, it addressed them to the government’s case,” Randolph wrote.
The panel reversed Kessler’s release order and remanded.