July 21, 2014

Ex-Guantánamo detainee can’t get his money back

Federal judge concludes a former Guantánamo detainee may no longer be a threat, but his money is.

A former Guantánamo Bay detainee can’t get his money back, a federal judge ruled Monday.

An Algerian citizen, and one-time resident of Canada, Djamel Ameziane, was held at Guantánamo for more than 12 years after being seized while trying to cross into Pakistan from Afghanistan. When he was repatriated to Algeria in 2013, U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle noted, the Defense Department returned all of his personal property “with the exception of 740 British pounds, 429,000 Afghanis, and 2,300 Pakistani rupees seized from petitioner at the time of his capture.”

This is not trivial, for a man trying to rebuild his life.

At current conversation rates, Ameziane had the equivalent of $7,551 in Afghanis, $23 in rupees and $1,264 in British pounds.

Defense Department policy is to retain the funds taken from released detainees, citing what officials call “a strong national security interest in preventing these funds from being used in a manner that would adversely impact the safety and security of the United States.”

In other words, the detainee is no longer a threat, but his money is.

In her seven-page opinion, Huvelle rejected Ameziane’s claim; concluding, among other things, that it is moot because he is no longer in U.S. custody. Her own authority to grant relief to Guantánamo detainees, other than through traditional habeas corpus proceedings that do not encompass return of private property, are limited under federal law, Huvelle noted.

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About Carol Rosenberg

Carol Rosenberg


Carol Rosenberg reports on Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the place, policy, people, war court.

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