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Monday, May 27, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Detainee Can Petition High Court Under Seal

(CN) - The Supreme Court said Monday that it would accept a sealed petition from a Guantanamo Bay detainee whom judges have criticized for making "perplexing" and "unconvincing" explanations about his alleged al-Qaida ties.

Hussain Salem Mohammed Almerfedi has been detained at Guantanamo Bay since 2003. Originally captured in Tehran by Iranian authorities about three or four months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Almerfedi was later transferred to the custody of Afghanistan and then to the United States.

Almerfedi claimed he left his home in Aden, Yemen, with his life savings to seek a better life in Europe. He said he travelled to Pakistan and stayed in an Islamic missionary guest house for two months, then paid a man he met there to smuggle him into Greece. After taking much of Almerfedi's life savings, this man, Mohammad Ali, instead allegedly took Almerfedi to Mashad, Iran.

The Iranian authorities reported that Almerfedi had $2,000 on him at the time of his arrest.

Humoud al-Jadani, one of Almerfedi's fellow inmates at Guantanamo, told authorities there that Almerfedi spent a few months of 2002 or 2003 at Jama'at Tablighi, an al-Qaida guesthouse in Lahore, Pakistan, which the United States has designated as a Terrorist Support Entity.

Al-Jadani also claimed that other detainees recognized Almerfedi as Hussain al-Adeni, an al-Qaida facilitator from the Tehran guesthouse. The name al-Adeni means "from Aden," Almerfedi's native city, and there was only one Hussain from Aden at Guantanamo Bay, according to the U.S. government.

Almerfedi argued that Al-Jadani's account was incorrect because he was in prison in Tehran at the time. He claimed he stayed at the guesthouse in 2001 and kept to himself because few Tablighi members spoke Arabic. Almerfedi insisted that he continually rebuffed recruitment by the Islamic missionary members.

Despite calling Almerfedi's explanations of his travels "perplexing" and unconvincing," a federal judge had granted the detainee's habeas petition, deciding that government failed to prove Almerfedi was part of the terrorist group, and that the testimony of a jailhouse snitch was unreliable.

The government appealed the ruling, claiming the court improperly excluded evidence, such as the account of a "jailhouse gossip," that it had incorrectly found to be unreliable. Prosecutors also argued that the District Court had failed to give weight to Almerfedi's own admission that he spent more than two months at the guesthouse in 2001.

The D.C. Circuit agreed and blocked Almerfedi's petition in June, focusing on the detainee's rent-free stint at a guesthouse "closely aligned" with al-Qaida, his direction of travel and the amount of cash he carried at the time of his arrest.

On Monday, the Supreme Court granted Almerfedi's motion to file a sealed petition for writ of certiorari. It still remains to be seen whether the justices will rule in Almerfedi's favor, given their recent pattern of deferring to the mostly conservative D.C. Circuit on Guantanamo detention matters.

The justices have not decided a detainee case in over three years with the June 2008 opinions in Boumediene v. Bush, concerning a Guantanamo Bay detainee, and Munaf v. Geren, which is related to an inmate of the military operations zone in Iraq. Boumedine afforded detainees the basic right to seek habeas relief.

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