A federal judge ordered the government to release another inmate from Guantanamo Bay today, finding that although the man may have been briefly affiliated with al-Qaeda, his subsequent imprisonment and torture at the hands of the terrorist group seemed to indicate that their relationship had soured.
In reaching his decision, Judge Richard Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that detainees who had cut their terrorist ties long before being captured by U.S. forces could be eligible for release.
Abdulrahim Abdul Razak al Ginco — referred to in the opinion as “Janko” — was a Syrian citizen captured in 2002 by U.S. troops in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Prosecutors alleged that Janko had traveled to Afghanistan in order to join Taliban and al-Qaeda forces. While there, they said, he stayed at a Taliban guest house and spent a brief period of time at a militant training camp.
But prosecutors also acknowledged that al-Qaeda members later imprisoned and tortured Janko into falsely confessing that he was a U.S. spy. He was then held in Kandahar’s Sarpusa prison for 18 months.
“Notwithstanding these extraordinary intervening events, the Government contends that Janko was still ‘part of' the Taliban and/or al-Qaeda when he was taken into custody after U.S. forces learned from a reporter of petitioner's presence at the abandoned prison in January 2002,” Leon wrote.
Declaring that the government’s position “defies common sense,” the judge wrote that the prosecutors were forcing him to decide whether a detainee’s relationship with the Taliban or al-Qaeda could become weak enough that he would no longer be considered a member of either group.
“The answer, of course, is yes,” Leon wrote, adding that “any preexisting relationship” between Janko and his militant captors “had been utterly destroyed.”