Judge upholds Guantanamo detention in rare government win

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba — A federal judge has rejected the habeas corpus petition of a Kuwaiti man who was designated during the Bush years for a war crimes trial here, bringing to 17 the number of habeas cases that have been decided in the government's favor. In the 38 cases, the judge has ruled in favor of the detainee.

Fayiz Kandari 35, has long claimed he was in Afghanistan at the time of his capture as a charity worker -- not a terrorist.

But the Pentagon alleges he trained with al Qaeda and around the time of the 9/11 attacks "served as an adviser to Osama bin Laden'' and produced al Qaida tapes that recruited men to jihad.

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly rejected Kandari's habeas petition in a one-page order Sept. 15. Her full ruling was still classified Monday and had not been released.

Kollar-Kotelly has now decided the cases of four Kuwaitis who had been held here for years in a series of rulings since July 2009. She's upheld the detention sof two detainees and ordered the release of two others.

In addition to Kandari, Kollar-Kotelly also has upheld the detention of Fawzi al Odah, 33, one of the earliest Camp X-Ray captives to sue the U.S. government for his freedom.

The two Kuwaitis she's ordered released included Fouad al Rabia, a 51-year-old Kuwaiti Airlines executive who went home in December after Kollar-Kotelly found that Guantanamo interrogators had coerced a confession from him and that even they did not believe that Rabia, a father of four and Kuwaiti military washout, had worked as a logistics and supply officer at the December 2001 Battle of Tora Bora.

Like Kandari, Rabia had been designated in October 2008 for a war crimes trial here at Camp Justice in a series of proposed prosecutions that the Obama administration put on hold.

Their charge sheets alleged conspiracy and providing material support for terror under the Bush era Military Commissions Act, crimes punishable by a maximum of life in prison.

The men were among a dozen Kuwaitis scooped up in Afghanistan in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks and taken here in 2002.

Kandari has been contesting his status as a so-called "enemy combatant'' since 2005 when he went before a panel of U.S. military officers reviewing his case and mocked the notion that he had risen from al Qaeda training camp volunteer to bin Laden advisor in three months.

"I ask, are these accusations against Fayiz or against Superman?'' he told the military panel. "It seems to me that whoever wrote these allegations . . . must have been drunk when he wrote it.''