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November 5, 2010
4:41 PM


Rachel Myers, National ACLU, (212) 549-2689 or 2666;

Federal Court Refuses To Throw Out Challenge To Guantánamo Prisoner’s Nine Year Detention

WASHINGTON - November 5 - A federal appellate court today sent a lawsuit challenging the unlawful detention of Guantánamo prisoner Mohamedou Ould Salahi back to district court for further review. In March, the district court had ordered Salahi released from Guantánamo because the government could not prove that he was part of Al Qaeda when he was captured in 2001. The government appealed that ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which today ruled that the government can continue to hold Salahi in military detention while the case returns to the lower court for further factual findings.

The American Civil Liberties Union and attorneys from the law firms of Freedman Boyd Hollander Goldberg Ives & Duncan P.A. and Linda Moreno brought the petition for habeas corpus on behalf of Salahi. Salahi, who never took part in any hostilities or attacks against the U.S., was captured at his home in Mauritania far from any battlefield, tortured and abused by the U.S. government and has now been in U.S. custody for approximately nine years.

In its ruling, the appellate court rejected the government’s radical argument that the oath Salahi swore to Al Qaeda in 1991 – when it was allied with the United States in opposing the communist government of Afghanistan – was sufficient proof that he was still connected to the group when he was captured in Mauritania in 2001. The court also acknowledged that Al Qaeda was a different group in 1991 than it was in 2001, and that allegiance to the earlier formation of the group could not be equated with allegiance to the group in later years.

The following can be attributed to Theresa Duncan of the law firm Freedman Boyd Hollander Goldberg Ives & Duncan P.A.:

“While we are disappointed that Mr. Salahi will remain imprisoned after nearly a decade of unlawful military detention, we’re confident the district court will once again find no legal or factual basis to continue holding him. The appeals court correctly recognized that it is up to the government to prove that Mr. Salahi can be held indefinitely – which it has failed do in the nine years it has kept him imprisoned. The district court should order Mr. Salahi’s release from Guantánamo – hopefully, this will be the beginning of the end to his long nightmare.”

The following can be attributed to Jonathan Hafetz, cooperating attorney with the ACLU:

"After nine years in unlawful custody, it is well past time for Mr. Salahi to go home. The failure of the courts to order his release would undermine their role as a check against lawless detention and a guarantor of individual rights."


The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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