A federal judge late Thursday ordered the Obama administration to set free a 50-year-old Kuwaiti aeronautics engineer who had been held as a war crimes suspect at Guantanamo since 2002.
U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly filed the sealed decision to grant a writ of habeas corpus for Fouad al Rabia, 50, Thursday evening at the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. The public portion of her order instructed the U.S. government "to take all necessary and appropriate diplomatic steps'' to arrange Rabia's release "forthwith.''
Defense attorneys argued at four-day court hearing last month that the U.S. military had worn Rabia down through relentless and abusive interrogation to the point where he falsely confessed that he ran a supply depot in the Battle of Tora Bora in Afghanistan in December 2001.
Kollar-Kotelly's order raised the tally to 30 long-held Guantanamo detainees who civilian judges have decided were unlawfully held at Guantánamo -- compared with seven captives whose detentions have been approved once the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the war on terror captives' could challenge their detentions in federal court.
Rabia also became the second man among the 30 war on terror captives ordered released who had been facing a war crime charge sworn out by a Pentagon prosecutor.
This summer, Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle ordered alleged Afghan war criminal Mohammed Jawad repatriated after concluding that Jawad's military commissions case was a "shambles.'' The Pentagon sent Jawad home to Afghanistan.
There was no immediate comment from the Pentagon's Office of Military Commissions, which handles the Guantánamo war crimes cases. At the Justice Department, National Security Division spokesman Dean Boyd said lawyers were "reviewing the ruling.''
Rabia, a father of four, claimed he went to Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on a humanitarian mission in keeping with his devotion to a tenet of Islam that requires charitable giving. He said he had been employed by Kuwaiti Airways at the time of his trip, and was on an approved vacation.
Most of his late August hearing was closed to the public as defense and Justice Department attorneys dueled over the classified record of his interrogations and case developed at the detention center at the U.S. Navy base in southeast Cuba.
His lawyer, David Cynamon, argued at an unclassified portion of his hearing last month that U.S. interrogators learned of Rabia's Arabic honorific, Abu Abdullah al Kuwaiti, and confused him with another Kuwaiti who had the same nickname. That Abu Abdullah did handle logistics and supplies in the showdown between U.S. Special Forces and their allies and loyalists to Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora, said Cynamon. But he was killed in the American-led shock-and-awe strikes on al Qaeda fanatics defending bin Laden in a tunnel and cave complex.
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