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Constitutional Law

Free Gitmo Detainee, Judge Orders, Says US Position ‘Defies Common Sense’

Posted Jun 22, 2009 7:26 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Finding that a captured videotape of Abd Al Rahim Abdul Rassak shows him being tortured by al-Qaida as a suspected American spy, a federal judge has rejected as ridiculous a U.S. government position that he continues to be a legitimate detainee in a terrorism case.

In a 13-page habeas corpus opinion today, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon of the District of Columbia says the government is "taking a position that defies common sense" and orders Rassak freed from the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. The judge also resorts to unusual punctuation ("I disagree!") to make his point, according to the Politics blog of FOX News. Rassak now uses the last name Janko, the news agency notes.

A Washington Post article about the ruling refers to Janko as Abdulrahim Abdul Razak al-Janko. The 30-year-old Syrian has been detained at Gitmo since early 2002, after being held for several years prior to that by the Taliban, the newspaper recounts.

Found by U.S. forces in January 2002 at an abandoned Taliban prison in Kandahar, Janko had initially stayed for five days at an al-Qaida guesthouse and then trained for 18 days at an al-Qaida military camp, the judge explains in his opinion. Although the U.S. did not contest that Janko had been tortured and imprisoned by these extremist groups, lawyers from the Department of Justice argued that Janko was legitimately detained because of his prior ties with these groups, eliciting the judge's exclamation-pointed comment.

Whatever allegiance Janko might initially have felt to these groups, the judge writes, “had been utterly destroyed” by his subsequent experience with them, reports the Blog of Legal Times.

A DOJ spokesman says the government is reviewing the judge's decision.

"We have known he is an innocent man for years," attorney Stephen Sady, who represents Janko, tells the Post. "We are so relieved and grateful that Mr. Janko has finally had his day in court and was found to be unlawfully detained."

Sady says he hopes the U.S. will find a "safe haven" for his client rather than sending him back to Syria.

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