October 26, 2009 WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge has ordered the release of a Kuwaiti man held at Guantanamo Bay and rebuked the United States government for relying on scant evidence, witnesses that were not credible and coerced confessions to hold him for more than seven years.
In an opinion declassified Friday, the judge, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of Federal District Court here, said government lawyers had presented a “surprisingly bare” record in four days of classified hearings last month to oppose the man’s request for release.
She said that the man, Fouad Al Rabiah, an aviation engineer; was being held almost exclusively based on confessions that were obtained through abusive techniques and that his own interrogators repeatedly concluded were not believable.
“Incredibly, these are the confessions that the government has asked the court to accept as truthful in this case,” Judge Kollar-Kotelly wrote in a 65-page opinion that was partly redacted to remove classified material. She called the coerced confessions “entirely incredible” and said they “defy belief.”
“If there exists a basis for Al Rabiah’s indefinite detention, it most certainly has not been presented to this court,” the judge found.
Mr. Al Rabiah, 50, is the 30th Guantanamo detainee to be ordered released by a federal judge who has reviewed evidence justifying detention. Seven detainees have been denied freedom after a judge determined the evidence suggested they supported terrorism.
The Justice Department declined to comment on the judge’s opinion.
Mr. Al Rabiah said that he traveled to Afghanistan in October 2001 to aid refugees, but government lawyers said it was to be with Osama bin Laden after the Sept. 11 attacks. “The evidence in the record strongly supports Al Rabiah’s explanation,” Judge Kollar-Kotelly wrote, citing letters that he wrote to his family describing his travels.
Mr. Al Rabiah was captured on Dec. 25, 2001, as he tried to leave Afghanistan, and detained by American troops. He was sent to Guantanamo in 2002, and Judge Kollar-Kotelly found that from the beginning of his stay, “there is no evidence in the record that anyone directed any allegations toward Al Rabiah nor any indication that interrogators believed Al Rabiah had engaged in any conduct that made him lawfully detainable. To the contrary, the evidence in the record during this period consists mainly of an assessment made by an intelligence analyst that Al Rabiah should not have been detained.”