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ACLU Files Lawsuit on Behalf of Bagram Detainees

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March 2, 2010

On Friday, we filed a habeas corpus lawsuit on behalf of four Bagram detainees. The lawsuit requests that the four men be granted access to lawyers and be allowed to challenge the legality of their detention in court. The petition alleges they have never engaged in hostilities against the U.S., have never been a part of any group hostile to the U.S. and have never even been told why they’re being detained or had access to a lawyer.

We have two sets of clients. The first set is brothers Samiullah and Sibghatullah Jalatzai. Sibghatullah served as a translator for the U.S. military for four years before his capture nearly 20 months ago. Samiullah was arrested without explanation at his workplace nearly 23 months ago. The second set is Haji Abdul Wahid, an Afghan government employee, and Zia-ur-Rahman, his nephew. Both were taken from their homes by the U.S. military during a massive neighborhood sweep more than a year ago.

We’re afraid to say it, but it’s looking like Bagram is the new Gitmo. Bagram detainees lack access to courts or any meaningful process to challenge their detention. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it was the same at Guantánamo until the Supreme Court decided, in Boumediene v. Bush, that detainees are entitled to challenge their detention through habeas corpus.

In response to an ACLU Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking the disclosure of documents related to the detention and treatment of prisoners at Bagram, the Defense Department recently released for the first time a list containing the names of 645 prisoners who were detained at Bagram as of September 2009, when the lawsuit was filed. Other vital information, including their citizenship, how long they had been held, in what country they were captured and the circumstances of their capture, was redacted.

Last summer, Gen. David Petraeus sent Marine Maj. Gen. Doug to Bagram to review conditions of the detention facility and interview detainees. In a report issued last August, Maj. Gen. Stone called for the release of most Bagram detainees, saying “there is little evidence against them and they pose no threat.”

At its peak, Gitmo held more than 700 prisoners. Less than 200 remain today. Most were never charged with crimes and released by the Bush administration. We hope Bagram will not become President Obama’s Gitmo.

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