Judge orders release of five Algerians at Guantanamo

Other News Materials 21 November 2008 01:25 (UTC +04:00)

A US federal judge ordered the release Wednesday of five Algerians at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, ruling the men cannot be held indefinitely without being charged, dpa reported.

US District Judge Richard Leon ruled the men cannot be held as "enemy combatants" because there was no evidence the detainees were involved in al-Qaeda or Taliban plots against the United States.

One of the detainees subject to release was Lakhdar Boumediene, who prevailed in a ruling by the Supreme Court in June that allowed Guantanamo prisoners to challenge their detention in federal courts.

The US government accused the men of planning to travel from Bosnia to Afghanistan before they were captured in 2001. They have been held at Guantanamo since 2002.

Leon ruled the government can continue to hold a sixth Algerian in the case, Belkacem Bensayah, because there was adequate evidence that he had connections to al-Qaeda.

"The court finds that the government has failed to show by a preponderance of the evidence that any of the petitioners, other than Mr Bansayah, either had, or committed to, such a plan," Leon wrote.

The Justice Department did not say whether it plans to appeal the ruling, but called on Congress and the Supreme Court to establish rules in the wake of the Boumediene versus Bush case.

"Today's decision is perhaps an understandable consequence of the fact that neither the Supreme Court nor Congress has provided rules on how these habeas corpus cases should proceed in this unprecedented context," Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr said.

The ruling was a blow to President George W Bush's administration, which has argued it could hold suspects in the war on terrorism who are considered enemy combatants.

"We are pleased with the Court's decision affirming the determination that Bensayah Belkacem is an enemy combatant and may be held during this armed conflict," Carr said.

There are 250 detainees still held at Guantanamo. The Pentagon has identified 60 of them as eligible for release, but no countries have been willing to take them.