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New D.C. District Court Orders in Obaydullah and Alhag Guantánamo Habeas Cases

Alan Z. Rozenshtein
Friday, February 1, 2013, 7:43 PM
The D.C.

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The D.C. district court issued two Guantánamo-related orders on Wednesday. The first involved something of a triple habeas Hail Mary: Judge Richard Leon denied Obaydullah's (no last name) motion for relief from (1) the court's March 2012 denial of the petitioner's classified (and thus unavailable) motion for reconsideration of (2) the court's October 2010 denial of Obaydullah's petition for a writ for habeas corpus, which itself had been (3) affirmed by the D.C. Circuit in August 2012. Obaydullah, as you may recall, is an Afghan detainee who was picked up by U.S. forces in 2002 with a notebook on his person containing designs for IEDs. Anti-tank mines also had been buried near his home. The motion for relief identified what Obaydullah characterized as newly discovered evidence, which he could not reasonably have uncovered during the case's first go-around. First and most importantly, the motion insisted that dried blood found in Obaydullah's car had come from his pregnant wife's labor, and not from any wounded al-Qaeda members, as was originally thought. Obaydullah's filing also highlighted a newly found second-hand report that called into question some key testimony from a government witness. The latter previously claimed that he had seen Obaydullah transport al-Qaeda members in his car; but the report suggested instead that the witness only had observed blood in the vehicle, and then inferred that it belonged to injured fighters whom Obaydullah had ferried around. (Charlie Savage reported on case's shifting evidence last February, which Ritika helpfully analyzed shortly thereafter.) Judge Leon was unimpressed. Most of the "new" evidence was "simply a rehash of evidence that [the court] already considered and dismissed when denying [Obaydullah's] petition," and did not cast significant doubt on Obaydullah's involvement with the Taliban and al-Qaeda in any event. The litigation's course clearly exasperated the court. At his order's conclusion, Judge Leon wrote, "[p]ut simply, [Obaydullah] cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear!" Wednesday's second order was the more straightforward of the pair, by far. Chief Judge Royce Lamberth granted Abd al Hakim Ghalib Ahmad Alhag's stipulated motion for voluntary dismissal without prejudice of his 2005 petition for a writ of habeas corpus; and further granted the Yemeni detainee's motion for continued counsel access pursuant to a previously-filed protective order. (You'll recall that Guantánamo petitioners sought, and won, a key victory in this respect some months back. Alhag's motion asked to benefit from that ruling, which was issued by none other than the Chief Judge himself.)

Alan Z. Rozenshtein is an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota Law School, a senior editor at Lawfare, and a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Previously, he served as an Attorney Advisor with the Office of Law and Policy in the National Security Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and a Special Assistant United States Attorney in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Maryland.

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