A federal appeals court in Washington today vacated a trial judge's ruling that ordered the government to release a Guantanamo Bay prisoner from custody.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued a per curiam opinion blocking the release of the detainee, Saeed Hatim, a Yemeni national who has been detained at the naval base since June 2002. The appeals court ordered additional proceedings in Washington’s federal trial court.
D.C. Circuit senior Judges Stephen Williams and A. Raymond Randolph, along with Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson, said the appeals court has “issued decisions inconsistent with several of the district court’s legal premises.” In December 2009, Judge Ricardo Urbina of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered Hatim released. The Justice Department appealed.
Urbina ruled the government could only detain a person who is a “part of” al-Queda or the Taliban. The D.C. Circuit panel said today the ruling is “directly contrary” to another decision that says a person who “purposefully and materially” supports al-Queda or the Taliban can also be detained. That decision came out a month after Urbina ruled in favor of Hatim.
In the Hatim case, DOJ lawyers argued that evidence of attendance at al-Queda training camps and al-Queda affiliated guesthouses was sufficient to keep Hatim detained. Last May, Urbina granted the government’s motion to stay pending the outcome of the appeal in the D.C. Circuit.
The appeals court held oral argument last November. Covington & Burling associate Brian Foster argued for Hatim, and the Justice Department’s Sharon Swingle represented the government.
“In light of these legal developments occurring after the district court issued its order, the government and Hatim should have the opportunity on remand to present additional evidence,” the D.C. Circuit said today.