Defense attorneys proving key to Guantanamo resettlement

Miami HeraldAugust 2, 2009 

WASHINGTON — On May 20, the premier of Bermuda was paying his respects at the White House when he offered a lifeline to the Obama administration's struggle to find countries for some of Guantánamo's most stigmatized detainees.

"I wonder if Bermuda can help,'' Premier Ewart Brown offered.

Three weeks later, four former prisoners were smiling, posing for photographers at a Bermuda beach -- a freeze-frame moment capping rare collaboration between a U.S. ally, attorneys and an American administration determined to close the Pentagon's prison camps in Cuba by Jan. 22.

Bermuda's hospitality illustrates how much the administration is relying on outsiders to make good on President Barack Obama's mandate to empty the prison camps at Guantanamo Bay.

And, how the U.S. attorneys who fought the Bush administration tooth-and-nail on its detention policies are now emerging as key partners in the effort to craft safe solutions for some of the men.

A case in point came this past week from the federal courts.

Long before Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle ordered the U.S. government to free a young Afghan named Mohammed Jawad, his military lawyers arranged with UNICEF and the Afghan Human Rights Commission to get him education and support, once back home with his mother.

Defense lawyers argue he was 12, not 17, at his capture. They wanted to show an Obama task force that ``we had everything in place to ensure a smooth transition to civilian life,'' said Air Force Reserve Maj. David Frakt.

The post-release program was put together by Frakt, a college professor doing reserve duty, a Marine lawyer who traveled to Afghanistan and a Navy reserves lawyer, a lieutenant commander.

A total of 13 detainees have left Guantánamo since Obama took office. Six were resettled in Bermuda, Britain and France, not their native countries; five went to their homelands of Chad, Iraq and Saudi Arabia; and a Yemeni went home dead, an apparent suicide victim. The 13th went to New York for trial as an al Qaeda co-conspirator.

About 230 remain. Lawyers estimate 50 of them need sanctuary in third countries, for fear of torture if returned home. Also, the federal courts are reviewing the detainees' cases -- and ordering that more be let go.

About 100 Guantanamo captives today are Yemeni. But the U.S. and Yemen can't agree on how to rehabilitate those the U.S. alleges answered Osama bin Laden's call to jihad in their teens and 20s.

Read the full story at at MiamiHerald.com.

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