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Friday, July 19, 2024 | Back issues
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Judge Refuses to Release|Yemeni Gitmo Detainee

(CN) - A Yemeni detainee at Guantanamo Bay who allegedly belonged to al-Qaida failed to convince a federal judge in Washington, D.C., that he had no intention of fighting jihad.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton wrote that Toffiq Nasser Awad Al-Bihani gave an inconsistent explanation for being in Iran and staying in guesthouses run by al-Qaida when he was taken into U.S. custody.

"The court finds that the petitioner's version of the events leading up to his detention, as construed by the court from a collective evaluation of his testimony, his declaration, and the stipulated facts in this case, reveals numerous material inconsistencies that completely undermine his credibility," Walton wrote. "In fact, the inherent incongruity in the petitioner's account strongly suggests that he is providing 'false exculpatory statements' to conceal his association with al-Qaeda, and such statements 'are evidence -- often strong evidence -- of guilt.'"

The Yemen-born al-Bihani said he was raised in Saudi Arabia but left the country after he began abusing drugs, including crystal methamphetamine, depression pills, marijuana, hasish and alcohol, according to the ruling.

Al-Bihani told investigators that his drug use increased when his fiancée ended their engagement because her family did not want her to marry a Yemeni. In 2000, al-Bihani allegedly followed his older brother Mansour's suggestion to fight jihad against the Russians in Chechnya.

"The government has established -- indeed, the petitioner has conceded -- that he was 'part of' al-Qaeda for at least the time period between February 2001 until July 2001 because of his participation in military training while at the al-Farouq training camp," Walton wrote.

Walton said there were too many coincidences in al-Bihani's story for him not to be part of al-Qaida.

Al-Bihani had admitted to staying in guesthouses run by al-Qaida while undergoing weapons training, and Walton said a non-citizen's visit to an al-Qaida-affiliated guesthouse "would seem to overwhelmingly, if not definitively, justify the government's detention." Al-Bihani was also captured alongside a "reputed terrorist leader."

"Furthermore, the petitioner's admissions that he continued to stay at al-Qaeda-affiliated guesthouses and associate with al-Qaeda or Taliban operatives after leaving al-Farouq and that he was apprehended at a house in Iran along with Hamza Al Qa'eity, an individual who the petitioner admits operated a guesthouse 'that jihad fighters used as a transition point,' constitutes evidence that, at least on its face and taken as a whole, supports the government's theory that the petitioner had no intention of cutting his ties to al-Qaeda, and that he in fact was 'part of' al-Qaeda at the time of his capture," Walton wrote.

Walton remained unconvinced that al-Bihani had tried to end his relationship with al-Qaida and return to Saudi Arabia.

Though al-Bihani claimed that he did not want to fight jihad and that he only stayed in Afghanistan because he was "scared" of being captured at the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, "the petitioner's testimony, the stipulated facts, and his sworn declaration, when viewed collectively, reveal material inconsistencies that undermine his assertions and overall credibility as a witness," the judge concluded.

"On the one hand the petitioner asserts that he 'didn't have any idea or any clue' that the purpose of his travel was to engage in warfare, while on the other hand he admits that he traveled to Afghanistan to prepare for jihad," Walton wrote. "If the petitioner truly wanted to cross the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in order to return to Saudi Arabia or Yemen, he had ample opportunities to do so. But because he did not seize those opportunities, the court is left with the impression that the petitioner had no real desire to travel to Pakistan."

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