A federal judge gave the government the go-ahead today to continue holding two Guantánamo Bay inmates, ruling it had enough evidence to justify their detention.
Judge Richard Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied habeas petitions from Hisham Sliti and Moath Hamza Ahmed Al Alwi, both of whom were accused by the government of participating in terrorist activities in Afghanistan during 2000 and 2001.
This is Leon’s second ruling on Guantánamo detainees. In November, he ordered the release of five Algerian inmates, while allowing the government to keep one in custody. Three of the five who he ordered released have since been flown to Bosnia.
Both Sliti and Al Alwi were captured by Pakistani authorities in 2001, shortly after the United States began its military campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan. According to the government’s lawyers, Sliti, a native Tunisian, traveled from London to Afghanistan in 2000 using a fake passport. He was eventually arrested by the Pakistani government, escaped, and traveled to Jalalabad. There, he allegedly lived with a group of known extremists and helped them form a terrorist cell before he was recaptured by the Pakistanis.
Sliti argued that he had traveled to Afghanistan to kick a drug habit and find a wife. Leon said this explanation was “not credible.”
Al Alwi traveled from Saudi Arabia to Afghanistan sometime around 2000, where U.S. officials said he joined an al-Qaida training camp before joining a unit of Taliban fighters. Alwi allegedly abandoned his Taliban unit after several U.S. bombing attacks and was eventually picked up by Pakistani authorities.
Leon said that despite the lack of evidence that Al Alwi had personally taken up arms against the United States, the fact that he had close ties to the Taliban and al-Qaida, as well as the fact that he had stayed with his military unit during the U.S. strikes were enough to classify him as an enemy combatant.
“I’m disappointed based on just how slim the government’s case was,” said Cori Crider, one of Sliti’s lawyers. “If that’s the kind of evidence that can be used to hold someone for what could be an indefinite period of time, it’s discouraging.”