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Torture and Rendition Victim Ordered Released from Gitmo

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April 9, 2010

Today a D.C. federal court released the opinion that orders the release of Guantánamo detainee Mohamedou Salahi (also spelled “Slahi”), a citizen of Mauritania. The decision was issued on March 22, but wasn’t made public until today, upon completion of a classification review. Some of the decision is still classified.

Salahi has been in U.S. custody for more than eight years. He was arrested in Mauritania on suspicion of ties to al Qaeda. The U.S. government then illegally rendered him to Jordan, where he was detained, interrogated and abused for eight months. He was then rendered to Bagram, Afghanistan, and finally to Guantánamo, where he has been held since August 2002.

While at Guantánamo, Salahi was subjected to an array of horrifying treatment, including being held in total isolation for months, kept in a freezing cold cell, shackled to the floor, and subjected to the “frequent flyer” program, during which he was awakened every few hours to deprive him of sleep. These abuses wereconfirmed and documented in a 2009 report by the Senate Armed Services Committee (PDF) that investigated allegations of detainee mistreatment at Guantánamo.

In the decision, Judge James Robertson wrote:

There is ample evidence in this record that Salahi was subjected to extensive and severe mistreatment at Guantánamo

Marine Corps Lt. Col. Stuart Couch, a military lawyer originally assigned to prosecute the case against Salahi in the military commissions, determined that Salahi’s self-incriminating statements were so tainted by torture that they couldn’t ethically be used against him. Lt. Col. Couch told his supervisors that he was “morally opposed” to Salahi’s treatment and for that reason he refused to participate in the prosecution.

The Department of Justice is appealing Judge Robertson’s decision. TalkLeft’s Jeralyn Merritt pointed out that Salahi is the 34th Guantánamo detainee whose imprisonment has been judged illegal by the federal courts. The ACLU joined Mr. Salahi’s legal team, which is led by Nancy Hollander of Freedman Boyd Hollander Goldberg Ives & Duncan P.A., several months ago.