(CN) – After winning their client’s release from Guantanamo Bay, only to have him jailed again once home in Morocco, attorneys for the detainee are entitled to diplomatic talks from the U.S. government, a federal judge ruled Monday.
Younous Abdurrahman Chekkouri spent 14 years without charges at the U.S. military base in Cuba before the government cleared his transfer home to Morocco just five months ago.
The military’s detainee profile on Chekkouri published by WikiLeaks contends that the man was captured with “other extremist fighters fleeing Tora Bora” in the early stages of the Afghanistan war, but attorneys for Chekkouri say he was in Afghanistan pursuing charity work and a business when he fled instability in the region.
After his capture, Pakistani authorities sold him to the United States for a bounty, and he became one of the first detainees to arrive in Guantanamo in 2002.
Chekkouri waited five years for transfer once the United States cleared him for release in 2010, but the U.K. charity Reprieve says their client’s detention continued as soon as he arrived in Morocco, stepping off a 10-hour flight during which he was blindfolded, shackled and made to wear ear-defenders.
Morocco accuses Chekkouri with attempting “to disrupt the security of the country,” but Reprieve has called the charges “utterly baseless.”
“We are very concerned for Younous’s health during his ongoing detention in Morocco and urge the authorities to release him as soon as possible,” Reprieve attorney Cori Crider said last year.
Chekkouri’s habeas case remains pending in Washington, and Reprieve asked the court for access to discussions the United States had with the Moroccan government.
In a Dec. 3 filing, Crider quoted Guantanamo officials as having told Chekkouri that he would be reunited with family after only a 72-hour hold in Morocco.
The Moroccan government now insists, however, that U.S. officials directed only that it treat Chekkouri humanely, according to Crider’s declaration.
“Someone is lying,” Crider wrote. “The deal conveyed to Mr. Chekkouri in his Guantanamo cell was not merely that he would keep his fingernails; the deal was that he would go home to his family after 72 hours and that he would not be charged. Yet the U.S. government has now said to this court that it does not matter who is lying, and that even if U.S. government officials had committed a ‘fraud on petitioner,’ this court should condone their conduct, dismiss the case, and leave petitioner to his fate.
“That is immoral and wrong in law,” she continued. “The government’s approach to Mr. Chekkouri’s case dishonors the United States.”
Though the government provided the court with unclassified information about its talks with Morocco one week later, it designated the filing as protected information, for the court’s eyes only.
U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman ordered the submission disclosed Monday, in a three-page order that contains none of the thunder of Chekkouri’s court filings.
“The government has not demonstrated a ‘compelling national security concern’ sufficient to justify protecting the information from limited disclosure to petitioner’s counsel,” Friedman wrote plainly.
A protective order remains on the materials to prevent their disclosure to the public.
Chekkouri’s U.S.-based attorney Joe Pace lauded what he described as an “extremely significant” victory.
“It also reflects, I think, a growing frustration on the court’s part at the government’s excessive, knee-jerk secrecy,” Pace wrote in an email. “We are thrice bound by secrecy – by the protective order in this case, by the terms of our security clearance, and by seal of the court. The idea that sharing this information with his counsel could jeopardize national security is, for lack of a better word, absurd.”
In her September 2015 statement, Crider had said Chekkouri was “tortured and brutally mistreated for years during his Guantanamo ordeal.”
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