WASHINGTON — A federal judge here has ordered the release of a Yemeni prisoner who's been held at the Guantanamo detention center since January 2002.
U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy, Jr., issued the order late Wednesday, telling the Obama administration to "take all necessary and appropriate diplomatic steps" to free Uthman Abdul Rahim Mohammed Uthman. Kennedy ordered the administration to report back on its progress April 1.
The order brings to 33 the number of people ordered freed under the Supreme Court's ruling that Guantanamo detainees have the right to challenge their imprisonment in U.S. courts through a habeas corpus petition. Judges have authorized the continued detention of 11 prisoners in habeas cases.
The reasoning behind Kennedy's order was not released, pending a security review of his classified opinion. It was Kennedy's first ruling in a Guantanamo habeas case.
Uthman is now about 30 years old, according to Pentagon documents. According to a summary of Uthman's 2004 Combatant Status Review Tribunal, Uthman had traveled to Afghanistan from Yemen in March 2001. He left Afghanistan for Pakistan as the Taliban government collapsed in the face of a U.S.-led military offensive and turned himself into Pakistani authorities, hoping to be repatriated to Yemen. Instead, the Pakistanis surrendered him to U.S. authorities as a possible member of al Qaida. U.S. forces took him to Kandahar, Afghanistan, then flew him to Guantanamo.
In 2006, Uthman told another Pentagon board reviewing his detention that he'd gone to Afghanistan to teach the Quran, had never received training there except in "religion and soccer," was not a member of al Qaida or the Taliban, had not been armed when he fled Afghanistan and did not know anything about any plans for attacks on the United States.