The Supreme Court refused to order tougher judicial scrutiny of suspected terrorists’ detentions at Guantánamo Bay, turning away an appeal by a Yemeni man held there for the past 11 years.
The justices Monday left intact a lower court ruling that said judges have only a limited role to play in questioning whether the U.S. government has grounds to hold someone at Guantánamo.
Lawyers for the man, Abdul al Qader Ahmed Hussain, said he was being deprived of “meaningful review” of his detention, as required under a 2008 Supreme Court ruling. Hussain’s appeal said the U.S. must show by “preponderance of the evidence” that detention is warranted. He maintained that a federal appeals court in Washington was holding the government to a less demanding test.
Hussain, now 30, was captured in Faisalabad, Pakistan, in 2002 and later transferred to Guantánamo, the U.S. military base in Cuba. The federal government says Hussain admitted to carrying an assault rifle while among Taliban forces on an Afghanistan battlefield.
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His name appears on an Obama Administration Task Force list as, by January 2010, approved for release from the prison camps, “to a country outside the United States that will implement appropriate security measures.”
There are 154 inmates being held at the Guantánamo prison, a facility President Barack Obama vowed to close within a year when he took office in 2009. Obama renewed his call to shut down the facility this year, amid opposition from congressional Republicans.
The Supreme Court last took up a Guantánamo case in 2008, when a 5-4 majority said inmates have constitutional rights and may seek release in federal court through what lawyers call habeas corpus petitions.
Hussain’s lawyers said the Washington-based federal appeals court that handles Guantánamo cases was effectively requiring the government to show only “substantial evidence” that an inmate was part of al-Qaida or the Taliban.
The high court rebuff came without published dissent. Justice Stephen Breyer issued a two-page statement questioning whether the military could hold an inmate who wasn’t engaged in armed conflict against the U.S., even if the person was a member of al-Qaida or the Taliban.
Breyer said he agreed with the rejection of the appeal because Hussain hadn’t raised that issue.
The Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg contributed to this report from the U.S. Navy base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.