Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Guantánamo protest

Demonstrators rally outside the White House in Washington, D.C. on January 11, 2019 to demand the closure of the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

'Historic Victory': US Judge Rules Guantánamo Detainee's Imprisonment Illegal

"This is a landmark ruling. For 20 years, successive U.S. administrations have asserted their right to imprison people indefinitely, without charge or trial."

Brett Wilkins

Two weeks after a review board cleared Guantánamo Bay prisoner Asadullah Haroon Gul for release, a federal judge ruled this week that the Afghan's imprisonment by the U.S. military in Cuba for over 14 years without charge or trial is illegal.

"This is such happy, sweet news for our family. We now pray that Asadullah is sent back home quickly—where he belongs."

In a ruling still undergoing classification review, Judge Amit P. Mehta of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Tuesday granted Gul's petition for a writ of habeas corpus, making him the first Guantánamo detainee in over a decade to win such a case against the government.

Mehta ruled that the United States had no legal basis for imprisoning Gul, a 40-year-old militant captured in Afghanistan in 2007, because he was not a member of al-Qaeda.

"This is a historic victory for the rule of law and a much-needed reminder to the U.S. government that there are limits on what it may do in the name of national security," Tara Plochocki, an attorney for Gul, said in a statement. "I'm hopeful that Asadullah will soon be reunited with his family."

While a prisoner at Guantánamo, Gul has been subjected to physical and psychological torture, "including being beaten, hung by his wrists, deprived of food and water, and prevented from praying," as well as "sleep deprivation, extreme cold temperatures, and solitary confinement," according to the human rights group Reprieve.

Mark Maher, a lawyer at Reprieve U.S. who also represents Gul, said: "We are thrilled for Asad. A federal court has finally affirmed what Asad has known for so long—he should be home with his family, and his detention is unlawful."

"This is a landmark ruling," added Maher. "For 20 years, successive U.S. administrations have asserted their right to imprison people indefinitely, without charge or trial. Guantánamo was built on the shakiest of legal foundations, and that has never been more clear than it is today."

The ruling does not mean that Gul's release is imminent. The Biden administration can appeal the decision, and as The New York Times noted:

In 2008, a federal judge ruled that 17 Muslims from China of the Uyghur minority were unlawfully detained at Guantánamo Bay but, as an oppressed minority, could not go home. The Uyghurs then languished at the prison for years while the Obama administration sought nations to receive them. The last three Uyghurs were sent to Slovakia for resettlement in 2013.

The U.S. government has argued it has the authority to indefinitely imprison Gul, citing his alleged connections to al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and noting the continuation of the 20-year so-called War on Terror.

However, on October 7 the interagency Periodic Review Board—which is tasked with determining whether Guantánamo prisoners pose a security threat to the United States—approved the transfer of Gul and Sanad Yislam al-Kazimi, a Yemeni captured in Dubai in 2003 and accused of being one of slain al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden's bodyguards.

There have been approximately 780 men and boys imprisoned at Guantánamo since it opened in 2002. Thirty-nine detainees remain at Gitmo following the transfer last month of Abdul Latif Nasser, a 56-year-old Moroccan held there for 19 years without charge or trial. Of those 39 prisoners, 28 have never been charged with any crime.

Back in Afghanistan, Gul's family cheered news of Mehta's ruling.

"This is such happy, sweet news for our family. We now pray that Asadullah is sent back home quickly—where he belongs," Roman Khan, Gul's brother, said in a statement. "The family has eyes only to see him again. We are all waiting for him. His wife, his young daughter Maryam, his parents, me, his nieces and nephews."

"He has spent more than 14 years of his life in this dangerous and terrible prison without charge," added Khan. "We are thankful to the judges and to everyone who continue to press for his freedom."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Historic Offshore Wind Lease Sale in California Gets Over $750 Million in Winning Bids

"If we build on today's forward momentum, the United States can dramatically reduce its global warming emissions and become a global leader in renewable energy technologies like deep-water offshore wind."

Brett Wilkins ·


Solidarity Fund Up and Running for Designer Behind Iconic Bernie Sanders Posters

Tyler Evans "has dedicated his life to the progressive movement," says the GoFundMe created for the hospitalized designer. "Now it's our time to have Tyler's back when he and his family need it most."

Jessica Corbett ·


Journalism Defenders Push for Passage of 'Game-Changing' PRESS Act

"The PRESS Act is the most important free press legislation in modern times because it would finally stop the government from spying on journalists and threatening them with arrest for doing their jobs," explained one advocate.

Brett Wilkins ·


New York Times Union Workers Planning Dec. 8 Walkout, Rally Over Pay

"Our collective action is working: Management backed off its attempt to kill our pension and agreed to expand fertility benefits," the union said of ongoing talks. "But management still barely budged on some of our most important priorities."

Jessica Corbett ·


Dems Back Blue Dog Spanberger for Swing District Post Over Progressive Cartwright

The corporate Democrat's path to victory was "pretty simple," said one progressive. "Matt Cartwright supports Medicare for All and Spanberger is a former CIA agent who spends all her time punching left."

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo