U.S. Defends Detention of Afghan at Guantánamo Regardless of Pullout

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WASHINGTON — A Justice Division lawyer stated in federal courtroom on Monday that, even because the Pentagon is withdrawing all troops from Afghanistan, the USA has the authority to proceed to detain a former Afghan militia member at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, due to his previous affiliation with members of Al Qaeda.

“We stay at warfare with Al Qaeda,” the lawyer, Stephen M. Elliott, stated at the beginning of listening to in U.S. District Courtroom in Washington in a case introduced by Asadullah Haroon Gul, an Afghan citizen who has been held by the U.S. army since 2007.

The listening to was the primary in a Guantánamo habeas corpus case for the reason that Biden administration took workplace, and its protection of his detention appeared similar to the positions taken by earlier administrations, regardless of President Biden’s order to withdraw all U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan and his acknowledged ambition to close the Guantánamo detention operation.

Mr. Elliott stated Al Qaeda is “morphing and evolving” and that the U.S. “warfare on terrorism” continues.

Mr. Haroon, who’s about 40, was captured by Afghan forces whereas serving as a commander of the Hezb-i-Islami militia, referred to as HIG, which fought the American and allied invasion of Afghanistan together with the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

His legal professionals argue that his warfare led to 2016 when the militia made peace with the U.S.-allied Afghan authorities of President Ashraf Ghani. The overseas ministry of Afghanistan has filed a brief within the case searching for his return.

A lot of the listening to, anticipated to final 5 to eight days, is closed to each the general public and the detainee as a result of the substance is taken into account labeled. Mr. Haroon was permitted to eavesdrop on the opening arguments by way of a cellphone line from Guantánamo that broke a minimum of as soon as, requiring a prolonged recess.

Earlier than holding a session in open courtroom on Monday, Judge Amit P. Mehta left his bench in Washington, D.C., to preside in a closed portion of the listening to at a safe facility in Virginia, with Mr. Haroon addressing the choose by video.

“I’m not a terrorist,” he stated in a press release launched by his legal professionals. “I’m an Afghan.”

Within the closed portion of the hearings, authorities legal professionals intend to make use of U.S. intelligence accounts of Mr. Haroon’s interrogations to defend his persevering with detention. Mr. Elliott stated U.S. intelligence reviews linked him to a few Qaeda leaders now held at Guantánamo, beginning along with his attendance at a younger age, apparently within the early Nineties, at seminars sponsored by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who’s accused of being the mastermind of the assaults of Sept. 11, 2001.

Proof that Mr. Haroon had engaged in hostilities is just not essential, Mr. Elliott added.

“He isn’t and has by no means been part of Al Qaeda, nor has he supplied substantial assist for them,” stated Tara J. Plochocki, a lawyer for Mr. Haroon. His household fled the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and he grew up in a refugee camp in Pakistan, which was run by the HIG militia. In combating for the militia, she stated, he was serving as a commander within the “Afghan nationwide drive.”

She referred to as him so “insignificant” that he didn’t handle to get a lawyer to symbolize him at Guantánamo till 2016. Because of this, she stated, he “missed out on the final waves of discretionary releases” of the Obama administration.

All however 40 of the 780 males who’ve been held at Guantánamo have been launched, she stated, “together with many precise members of Al Qaeda. No Taliban are left. No HIG members.”

Federal courtroom judges have been listening to illegal detention challenges for the reason that George W. Bush administration, however that is the primary listening to in a Guantánamo case to be dealt with by Judge Mehta, an appointee of President Barack Obama. Beneath the present timetable, the courtroom might reopen the listening to for unclassified closing arguments on Might 28.