(CN) – A federal judge in Washington, D.C., released a redacted full-length version of her November order releasing an Algerian Guantanamo detainee. U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler ruled that the prisoner was not a member of al-Qaida, even if he was likely on the path to become one.
U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler ruled that Farhi Saeed Bin Mohammed, who’s been held at Guantanamo since 2002, should be released from the detention facility.
Kessler said Mohammed’s story that he was in Afghanistan to find and marry an unnamed Swedish woman in order to get European citizenship was “patently fantastic,” but the government still did not have a solid case against him.
Mohammed’s story does not rebut credible evidence presented by the government that he was traveling and living with known al-Qaida supporters while in Afghanistan, the judge ruled.
Kessler noted that Mohammed used a false passport while traveling around Europe and used an alias while in U.S. custody in Pakistan and at Guantanamo Bay, but said those facts alone were not enough to deny his petition. Mohammed’s trip to purportedly find the Swedish woman was arranged and paid for by an al-Qaida recruiter who accompanied him on the trip.
The government claimed that Mohammed fought on behalf of terrorist groups, citing his own admission during a 2005 interrogation that he fought on the front lines. But Kessler pointed out that there is no eyewitness account of Mohammed’s alleged combat experience.
The government’s strongest allegations against Mohammed – that he underwent terrorist training – were based on statements made by Binyam Mohammed, a Guantanamo prisoner who’d been tortured extensively, the ruling states.
Statements following torture can’t be used as evidence under the United Nations Convention Against Torture, Kessler said.
Without evidence that Mohammed underwent terrorist training, the government’s case is “severely weakened,” she wrote. She said the government can’t base its case solely on his travel pattern and al-Qaida associations.
“[Mohammed] had simply not yet reached that point in his journey to become a part of al-Qaida,” Kessler wrote. He may well have been on the path to full membership, but the record does not show that he achieved this status, she said.
“[T]he court concludes that petitioner’s conduct does not meet the legal standard for detention,” she wrote.
The judge ordered the government “to take all necessary and appropriate diplomatic steps to facilitate petitioner’s release forthwith.”
Mohammed challenged his detention in July 2005 and was cleared for release by the Administrative Review Board in September 2007.