Tag Archives: Guantanamo

Chinese Muslim languishes in Gitmo legal limbo

Note: This is an article than ran in the Sept. 29 edition of the Chicago Tribune.

WASHINGTON — The United States held him for seven years and then, ultimately, decided that he poses no threat to national security. But he’s still sitting in prison at Guantanamo Bay because no other country will take him. Nor will the U.S. let him come here to live, even temporarily. 

In the Kafkaesque world of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, being eligible for freedom doesn’t make you free. 

He is Huzaifa Parhat, who now promises to be the next test case in detainee rights in the war on terror. Parhat is a Uighur, a Muslim from western China, picked up in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks on suspicion of having ties to the Taliban. Some Uighurs (pronounced WE-goors) are part of a movement that seeks separation from China to form their own Islamic nation.

The Chinese government considers Uighurs a threat to the country’s security and is accused of widespread human-rights abuses in their home province of Xinjiang. The U.S. State Department will not return Uighur detainees at Guantanamo to China because of fears that they will be imprisoned or tortured. 

But the U.S., too, has recently branded Uighur separatists as terrorists, even though a decade ago they were cheered by conservatives such as the late Sen. Jesse Helms for opposing the Chinese government. 

Parhat scored a major victory in June when he became the first Guantanamo detainee to have his detention ruled invalid by a U.S. federal appeals court. Since then, his lawyers have been trying to free him from the naval prison, but the Bush administration has resisted, arguing, in essence, that even though there is no longer any basis to hold him as an enemy of the state, it still has the power to decide how, where, and when to let him go. 

Now his lawyers are pressing for a court to order an extraordinary remedy. They want Parhat to come to the U.S. to testify that he poses no threat. And after that, they want him released in the U.S. to live until another home can be found for him. 

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Hamdan receives light sentence; could force enemy combatant test

A military jury in Guantanamo Thursday gave Salim Hamdan a surprisingly light sentence of 5 1/2 years. And since Hamdan has already been imprisoned at the Navy base for five years, his sentence would be completed sometime next year.

Hamdan was convicted Wednesday of providing material support to terrorists, but was acquitted of the more serious charge of conspiracy. In essence, the six-member jury did not buy the Pentagon’s argument that Hamdan, a former driver for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, was a key operative of al Qaeda.

But the Pentagon has made clear that intends to hold Hamdan as an enemy combatant beyond the time his term ends. The Defense Department maintains that it can hold foreign nationals who have been classified as enemy combatants as long as hostilities continue. In a global war on terror, of course, it’s difficult to say when exactly that point might be reached.

And as an enemy combatant, Hamdan has the right to challenge the basis for detention in a habeas corpus proceeding in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. It would be interesting to see how a judge might view his being detained after he has finished his full sentence.

The status of Hamdan and other enemy combatants will present a challenge for the next president, who will be charged with determining which anti-terrorism policies of the Bush administration should be kept in place and which should be junked. The Pentagon has said that a small group of detainees at Guantanamo will be kept indefinitely, even if the Defense Department does not have enough evidence to formally charge them before military commissions.

Here is the Associated Press bulletin:

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (AP) — A military jury gave Osama bin Laden’s driver a stunningly lenient sentence on Thursday, making him eligible for release in just five months despite the prosecutors’ request for a sentence tough enough to frighten terrorists around the globe.

Salim Hamdan’s sentence of 5 1/2 years, including five years and a month already served at Guantanamo Bay, fell far short of the 30 years to life that prosecutors wanted. It now goes for mandatory review to a Pentagon official who can shorten the sentence but not extend it. Continue reading

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The road ahead for military commissions

(AP/Janet Hamlin)

(AP/Janet Hamlin)

Here is my story from today’s Chicago Tribune:

WASHINGTON—The government has been trying to prosecute and convict Salim Ahmed Hamdan for war crimes for five years. On Wednesday, a Guantanamo Bay military jury found Hamdan guilty of supporting terrorism, and he now faces life in prison.

So, mission accomplished?

Hardly.

The conviction of Osama bin Laden’s former driver may have provided the Pentagon with a brief moment of certitude, something concrete it can point to as a success. But in reality, it’s just another small step forward in the Byzantine uncertainty that is the military commission process. The only thing certain is there are miles to go until the issue of the validity of Hamdan’s conviction is put to rest.

“We haven’t really proved anything about whether this system is going to work,” said Shayana Kadidal, a lawyer for the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents several detainees at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Continue reading

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Hamdan: Pentagon statement

The Department of Defense has released this statement on Hamdan’s conviction:

            A military panel announced today that Salim Ahmed Hamdan of Yemen was found guilty of providing material support to terrorism by a military commission under the Military Commissions Act of 2006.   Hamdan was found guilty on five of eight specifications of material support to terrorism, numbers 2, 5, 6, 7 and 8. He was found not-guilty by the panel members (jury) on the charge of conspiracy.

             Now that Hamdan has been found guilty of these offenses, the commission will determine an appropriate sentence. Based on the crime for which he has been convicted he faces the maximum sentence of life in prison.
 
            Hamdan’s conviction at trial is one step in the military commission process. After the trial is complete his case will receive an automatic review by the Convening Authority, who will evaluate the legal sufficiency of the findings and appropriateness of the sentence. Hamdan will still be represented by counsel and have the opportunity to submit matters for consideration on his behalf. Then his case will receive an automatic review by the Court of Military Commission Review. Thereafter, he could appeal to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and the Supreme Court.
 
            Trials by military commission demonstrate that the United States is committed to holding dangerous terror suspects accountable for their actions. Military commissions provide a mechanism to serve justice to those accused of law of war violations while keeping the United States, friends and allies safe from those determined on carrying out attacks on civilian populations and coalition forces.
 
            Military commissions are constituted courts, affording all the necessary judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples for purposes of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention.
 
            A link to Hamdan’s list of charges can be viewed on the Military Commission Web site here.

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Hamdan: Amnesty International statement

[Washington, DC]—Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA, issued the following statement in response to today’s verdict in the first military commissions trial at Guantanamo Bay in the case of Salim Ahmed Hamdan:

“Regardless of today’s verdict, Hamdan’s trial revealed what is common knowledge – the military commissions are fatally flawed and do not adhere to major aspects of the rule of law.

“Hamdan suffered nearly seven years of unlawful detention, only to face a process that falls far short.  So far the trial continues the Bush administration’s efforts to escape the rule of law and the requirements of justice.” 

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Hamdan: John McCain statement

ARLINGTON, VA — U.S. Senator John McCain issued the following statement on today’s verdict in the case of Salim Ahmed Hamdan:

 “I welcome today’s guilty verdict in the first trial held under the Military Commissions Act (MCA). This process of bringing terrorists to justice has been too long delayed, but I’m encouraged that it is finally moving forward. I supported that legislation, which was a good-faith effort by Congress to meet the Supreme Court’s direction to establish a process to bring terrorist detainees to trial. Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a trusted confidante of Osama Bin Laden, was provided a full hearing of the charges against him and was represented by counsel who vigorously defended him. The jury found that the prosecution lawyers had proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Hamdan had aided terrorists by supplying weapons to Al Qaeda and Taliban forces in Afghanistan.

This process demonstrated that military commissions can effectively bring very dangerous terrorists to justice. The fact that the jury did not find Hamdan guilty of all of the charges brought against him demonstrates that the jury weighed the evidence carefully. Unlike Senator Obama who voted against the MCA and favors giving Al Qaeda terrorists direct access to U.S. civilian courts to contest their detention, I recognize that we cannot treat dangerous terrorists captured on the battlefield as we would common criminals.”

Well, it’s your move, Barack Obama. In the past Obama has criticized the commission system. We will see if he issues a statement today.

 

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Hamdan: CCR statement

Here is a statement from the Center for Constitutional Rights on the Hamdan conviction:

August 5, 2008, New York – In response to the hand-picked military jury’s decision in the Military Commission against Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Shayana Kadidal, Senior Managing Attorney of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) Guantánamo Global Justice Initiative, issued the following statement:

 “Hamdan’s trial violated two of the most fundamental criminal justice principles accepted by all civilized nations:  the prohibition on the use of coerced evidence and the prohibition on retroactive criminal laws.

 The decision to keep these cases out of the ordinary criminal courts will produce years of appeals over novel legal issues raised by the untested military commissions system. Even after those appeals are finished, the process will never be seen as legitimate by the world.  This case was the first trial run of the commissions system, and the decision proves nothing except that the system itself should be scrapped. Terrorism-related crimes should be tried in the time-tested domestic criminal justice system, a system whose rules have been designed over the centuries with one goal: to seek out the truth.”

 CCR has led the legal battle over Guantanamo for the last six years – sending the first ever habeas attorney to the base and sending the first attorney to meet with a former CIA “ghost detainee” there. CCR has been responsible for organizing and coordinating more than 500 pro bono lawyers across the country in order to represent the men at Guantanamo, ensuring that nearly all have the option of legal representation. CCR represented the detainees with co-counsel in the most recent argument before the Supreme Court.  For more information or to read the amicus brief filed by CCR in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, click here.

 

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