Judge rules Afghan shopkeeper Khan should remain at Guantanamo

A federal judge has agreed with the government that it can indefinitely hold at Guantanamo an Afghan man whom military intelligence says belonged to an anti-American cell near Kandahar.

Judge John Bates' ruling, his first on a Guantanamo habeas corpus petition, left the so-called government win-loss scorecard at 16-38 in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

That means that judges have ruled more than twice as often for the release of detainees at Guantanamo, rather than holding them.

But in this case Bates rejected Shawali Khan's unlawful detention lawsuit in a one-page order released Friday afternoon. His opinion was not released but a court order said an unclassified version would be released "at a later date."

Justice Department lawyers argued in the small portion of its case made public that Khan, 47, held at U.S. Navy base since February 2003, belonged to an anti-American cell of Hezb Islami Gulbuddin, an insurgent group active in Afghanistan, founded by a Pashto leader.

As part of his case, defense attorneys gave the court Pashto statements from family and neighbors to plead his case that he was an innocent caught up in the conflict.

"He was only a shopkeeper here, as all of us, selling fuel. So how could he fight the same time," said a May 2010 statement from Kandahar neighbor Raifullah, signed with a thumbprint.

An anti-communist, radical Muslim fighting faction, the HIG was founded in 1977 to wage jihad against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and at times back then was supported by the United States. Later it allied with the Taliban and possibly al-Qaida.

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