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Federal Judge Gladys Kessler orders detainee Farhi Saeed bin Mohammed to be released

U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler

U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler

In case you missed this, the Miami Hearld reports:

A federal judge Friday ordered the Obama administration to free a long-held Guantánamo captive who fled his native Algeria years ago and kicked around Europe as a construction worker for a decade before his capture in Pakistan.

Judge Gladys Kessler’s order to free Farhi Saeed bin Mohammed, 48, raised to 31 the number of detainees who have won their federal unlawful detention suits since the U.S. Supreme Court empowered Guantánamo detainees to file and argue habeas corpus petitions.

In contrast, judges have upheld the indefinite detentions of eight other men among the 215 now at Guantánamo.

Kessler’s order was classified Friday, meaning her rationale for ordering his release was not yet made public.

Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said government lawyers were “reviewing the ruling.”

Boston lawyer Jerry Cohen, who has represented the man for four years, said his client fled his homeland and lived between Britain, France and Italy as an itinerant laborer in the 1990s before going to Afghanistan months before the 9/11 attacks. He fled the U.S. invasion to Pakistan, where he was captured and sent to Guantánamo in February 2002, the earliest days of the detention center in southeast Cuba.

“He’s an easy guy to like,” said Cohen, “and certainly not the worst of the worst and not even close to it.”

Defense Department documents alleged that he lived and worked illegally in Rome using a stolen French passport and was fingered by another detainee fors having stayed in an al Qaeda safehouse in Afghanistan.

It also claimed he had received weapons training as a youngAlgerian Army conscript in the 80s and again two decades later also trained in Afghanistan.

Countered Cohen: “He never fought anyone anywhere, never handled a weapon since his service in the Algerian army.”

It was unclear where he might go were the U.S. government to waive its appeal of the captive and agree to his release.

Kessler’s order instructed the government “to take all necessary and appropriate diplomatic steps to facilitate petitioner’s release forthwith.” She also ordered the Justice Department to give her an update on his status or release by Dec. 17.

The Algerian fears return to his homeland, his lawyer said, and would seek resettlement in a third country, where he would like to work in construction and marry.

(HT: Neal Sonnett)

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Anthony Clark Arend is Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Commentary and analysis at the intersection of international law and politics.