The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] on Friday affirmed lower court’s decision confirming that Yemeni Guantanamo Bay detainee Musa’ab Omar al-Madhwani is lawfully detained for being part of al Qaeda. Madhwani challenged the denial of 2004 petition for writ of habeas corpus by the US District Court for the District of Columbia claiming that there was insufficient evidence to find that he was part of al Qaeda and that the district court improperly relied on evidence outside the record, abused its discretion in denying additional discovery and committed various legal errors, including due process violations. The court supported the use of the « command structure » test employed by the district court as « sufficient to show that a person is part of al Qaeda » in response to Madhwani’s arguments against using an erroneous legal standard where only preponderance of evidence is needed to detain someone in connection with al Qaeda. Examining the evidence de novo, the appeals court found that: In light of Madhwani’s guesthouse and military training camp admissions, his carrying a rifle at the behest of camp superiors, his suspicious movements and implausible narrative and his final capture in the company of at least one known al-Qaida operative, we conclude that a preponderance of the evidence unmistakably showed Madhwani was « part of » al-Qaida when he was captured. In addition to challenging the sufficiency of the evidence, Madhwani offers a laundry list of evidentiary and legal complaints. None establishes a convincing basis for us to reverse the district court’s denial of habeas corpus relief.
Habeas corpus rights for Guantanamo detainees have been a struggle for federal courts this past year. In March, an appeals court blocked the release of Guantanamo detainee Uthman Abdul Rahim Mohammed Uthman by overturning a district court decision that claimed the government had failed to prove prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Uthman had received and executed orders from al Qaeda. In September, Kuwaiti Guantanamo detainee Fawzi Khalid Abdullah Fahad al Odah petitioned the US Supreme Court to reverse a federal appeals court decision that denied him habeas corpus relief. The DC appeals court denied habeas corpusrelief to al Odah in July. The court affirmed the district court’s ruling that there was sufficient evidence against al Odah for him to be considered « part of » al Qaeda and Taliban forces.