For First Time Since 2010, A Judge Grants a Guantánamo Prisoner’s Habeas Corpus Petition, Ruling that Asadullah Haroon Gul’s Imprisonment is Unlawful

Asadullah Haroon Gul’s parents, Ibrahim and Sehar Bibi, with photos of their son, taken in their home in the Shamshatu refugee camp in Pakistan in January 2021 (Photo: Aftab Khan).

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I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

In an important ruling in the District Court in Washington, D.C. last week, Judge Amit Mehta, an Obama nominee, granted the habeas corpus petition of Asadullah Haroon Gul, an Afghan prisoner held at Guantánamo without charge or trial since June 2007, and identified by the US authorities simply as Haroon al-Afghani.

The ruling is significant because it is the first time since July 2010 that a judge has granted a Guantánamo prisoner’s habeas corpus petition on the basis that his detention is unlawful. After the Supreme Court granted the Guantánamo prisoners constitutionally guaranteed habeas corpus rights, in Boumediene v. Bush, in June 2008, there followed a two-year period that was the only time in Guantánamo’s history that the courts were able to objectively assess the basis of the prisoners’ detention, and in 38 cases judges ruled that the government had failed to establish that they had any meaningful connection to either Al-Qaeda or the Taliban.

By 2010, however, politically motivated appeals court judges had passed a number of rulings that gutted habeas corpus of all meaning for the Guantánamo prisoners. The last man freed after having his habeas corpus petition granted was Mohammed Hassen (aka Mohammed Hassan Odaini), a Yemeni who was freed in July 2010 after having his habeas petition granted in May 2010. Two other prisoners had their habeas petitions granted in July 2010, but they were amongst the six men whose successful petitions were subsequently overturned by the court of appeals, and, from July 2010 until October 2011, eleven men had their habeas petitions denied, until they, and their lawyers, gave up. Several efforts were made in the following years to interest the Supreme Court in taking back control of Guantánamo detainee issues, and to break through the obstacles raised by the court of appeals, but all, sadly, were in vain.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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