Judge blasts case against Kuwaiti held at Guantanamo
So how did an overweight, 43-year-old Kuwaiti man with bad knees and no real military training or experience suddenly become a logistics expert helping al Qaeda leaders organize the defense of Tora Bora in 2001?
That’s the question a U.S. federal judge said the government failed to adequately answer in trying to justify the indefinite detention of Fouad Al Rabiah at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Kuwait Airways engineer’s confessions to those charges, extracted with the use of extreme interrogation methods, “defy belief,” wrote Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in a decision issued today.
“If there exists a basis for Al Rabiah’s indefinite detention, it most certainly has not been presented to this court,” Kollar-Kotelly wrote in a 65-page decision, noting that his petition to the court for release under habeas corpus is the oldest pending. So far, 30 detainees have won their freedom from the court, while seven have been denied.
The government had accused Al Rabiah of providing money to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden during a July trip to Afghanistan and helping to coordinate and support Taliban fighters in the mountainous Tora Bora region in the country during a subsequent October trip. Bin Laden is believed to have escaped capture via that route.
However, the judge shredded the government’s case, meticulously going through Al Rabiah’s history and the evidence presented noting that he had only had two weeks of military training — a requirement in Kuwait — but he was discharged because of a knee injury and that he had a long history of doing charity work without any ties to terrorism.
Kollar-Kotelly also pointed out that Al Rabiah’s confessions were a result of harsh interrogation techniques, including one (which was redacted in the ruling) that the government was unable to provide evidence that its use was authorized as required.
She also pointed out that one intelligence analyst’s assessment was that Al Rabiah should not have been detained and that the interrogators “began using abusive techniques that violated the Army Field Manual and the 1949 Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War” such as threats that he would be sent to places where he could be tortured or would never be found.
“Al Rabiah’s interrogators ultimately extracted confessions from him, but they never believed his confessions based on the comments they included in their interrogation reports,” she said in her ruling, apparently incredulous that the government tried to use them to justify his indefinite detention.
This passage seemed to sum up Kollar-Kotelly’s feelings about the strength of the government’s case against Al Rabiah:
“Al Rabiah’s ‘story’ to which his interrogators alluded is also entirely incredible. Al Rabiah was a 43 year old who was overweight, suffered from health problems, and had no known history of terrorist activities or links to terrorist activities. He had no military experience except for two weeks of compulsory basic training in Kuwait, after which he received a medical exemption. He had never traveled to Afghanistan prior to 2001. Before leaving for Afghanistan in October 2001, he requested two-weeks leave from Kuwait Airlines, his employer, where he had worked for twenty years. Given these facts, the Government did not even attempt to defend many of his confessions, and particularly those where he confessed to traveling to Tora Bora and advising senior al Qaeda leaders as to how they should be organizing their supplies within the six square (mile) Tora Bora mountain complex that Al Rabiah had never previously seen and that was occupied by people whom he had never previously met, while at the same time acting as a supply logistician and mediator of supply disputes that arose among various fighting factions. These confessions defy belief.”
- Photo credit: Reuters