At left is Ravil Mingazov in an undated photo taken before his 2002 capture in Pakistan. At right is U.S. District Court Judge Henry Kennedy Jr. who on Thursday May 13, 2010 ordered his release from the prison camps at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
A federal court on Thursday ordered the Pentagon to set
free from Guantánamo a former Russian Army ballet dancer
turned devout Muslim whose plight captured the imagination of
a Massachusetts college town.
Judge Henry Kennedy Jr. ordered the Obama administration to
take "all necessary and appropriate diplomatic steps ...
forthwith'' to release Ravil Mingazov, 42, an ethnic
Tartar who was captured in Pakistan in 2002 and turned over to
Thursday's midday ruling raised to 35 the number of
Guantánamo detention cases the U.S. government has lost since
the U.S. Supreme Court ruled two years ago that the
war-on-terror captives can sue for their freedom in federal
he Justice Department has so far successfully defended the
indefinite detention of 13 Guantánamo captives.
With the Pentagon still holding 181 foreign men at
Guantánamo, dozens more habeas corpus petitions are yet to be
Justice Department spokesman Dean Body said Thursday
afternoon that government lawyers were "reviewing the
ruling," which was still being declassified. Kennedy gave the
government until June 15 to report back.
The Guantánamo captive's Washington D.C. attorney, Douglas
K. Spaulding, said his client had yet to hear of the ruling
but the lawyer had reached the captive's mother in central
Russia, where she was "very gratified to hear that Judge
Kennedy had entered this order.''
The son was a one-time ballet and folkloric dancer as a
civilian in the Russian Army who became devout after the fall
of the Soviet Union and fled his homeland in 2000, for
The mother, he said, is a "former Soviet-era
agro-economist now in her 70s who prays to live long enough to
see her son.''
The Pentagon claimed that Mingazov was captured in a March
2002 security forces raid on a suspected terrorist safehouse
belonging to an al Qaeda rival named Zayn Abdeen al Hussein,
known as Abu Zubaydah. It also said he had earlier undergone
training at a terror training camp, which he had denied.
For his part, the Russian told a U.S. military panel in
2006 that he was captured in a guest house for refugees, not
Abu Zubaydah's, who he subsequently learned that security
forces captured him elsewhere. He added that he didn't know
Abu Zubaydah and nor had he seen Osama bin Laden.
Spaulding was seeking talks with the Obama administration
to arrange for his client's release to a country other than
his homeland because of the stigma of nearly a decade in U.S.
detention. Seven other Russians, who were released from
Guantánamo in 2004, were tortured, beaten, harassed and sent
into hiding, according a Human Rights Watch study.
Liberal activists in Massachusetts showcased the tale of
Mingazov and an Algerian man named Ahmed Belbacha in a
campaign last year that condemned the detention policies of
the Bush administration. On Nov. 4, Amherst's 240-member Town
Meeting voted to offer asylum to two GuantÍnamo captives
cleared of wrongdoing who cannot go home.
Congress has since blocked any resettlement of cleared
Guantánamo captives onto U.S. soil. The Obama administration
has turned to Europe mostly to take in released captives.
In western Massachusetts, activist Nancy Talanian of a
grass-roots group, "No More Guantánamos,'' said Pioneer
Valley residents were still eager to take in Mingazov for
"Guantánamo detainees who cannot safely return home are
really no different than other refugees whom western
Massachusetts communities have welcomed in the past,'' she
said. If the Obama administration can tell Europe that former
detainees "would not pose any danger,'' she said, "that
should be sufficient assurance that we can be safe with some
of them living here.''
Mingazov, he said, speaks some English and some Arabic
aside from his Russian.
Said Spaulding: "He's very healthy. He's got a good sense
of humor. He's a healthy, I would say, balanced individual.
Folks in Amherst are ready to go but I don't think that's
going to happen.''