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Obaydullah Takes His Case to the D.C. Circuit

Wells Bennett
Thursday, February 28, 2013, 4:17 PM
In other habeas news, detainee Obaydullah has noted his appeal to the D.C.

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In other habeas news, detainee Obaydullah has noted his appeal to the D.C. Circuit.  Obaydullah had filed a motion for relief from judgment.  In it, he cited newly discovered evidence that---in his view---established his innocence.  But, as Alan explained in his excellent writeup, the district court wasn't buying the petitioner's claims:
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!”
Obaydullah's case now moves to the court of appeals.  Stay tuned.

Wells C. Bennett was Managing Editor of Lawfare and a Fellow in National Security Law at the Brookings Institution. Before coming to Brookings, he was an Associate at Arnold & Porter LLP.

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