Link to Action: www.amnestyusa.org/Almerfedi
Yemeni national Hussain Salem Mohammed Almerfedi has been held in US military custody at Guantánamo Bay for over nine years, accused by the US authorities of being an al-Qa’ida facilitator in Iran, which he denies. He has never been charged or brought to trial by the US government for any offence. In 2010, a federal court judge found that his detention was unlawful and ordered his release. The government appealed, however, and in 2011, the Court of Appeals overturned the ruling. The US Supreme Court has refused to review the case. In addition, both the Bush administration and President Obama’s Guantánamo Task Force approved him for transfer out of Guantánamo.
Amnesty International calls for Almerfedi and other Guantánamo detainees to be released immediately, unless they are charged with a recognizably criminal offence and given fair trials in independent courts, in full accordance with international standards, and without recourse to the death penalty.
Almerfedi was arrested in Iran in December 2001 by police, who, according to court documents, beat him and accused him of being a US spy before transferring him, with a group of other men held in Iranian prisons, to US custody in Afghanistan as part of a “prisoner exchange”. In May 2003 he was transferred to Guantánamo Bay.
Almerfedi alleges that he left Yemen to seek a better life in Europe and that his plan was to travel from Yemen to Pakistan to seek funding from the Islamic missionary group, Jama’at al-Tablighi (JT). The US government has accused Almerfedi of being an al-Qa’ida facilitator who frequented al-Qa’ida “guesthouses” in Iran, helping foreign fighters infiltrate Afghanistan, and has alleged that Almerfedi actively associated with JT, an organization described by US intelligence not only as a “legitimate Islamic missionary group”, but also designated as a “Terrorist Support Entity” for its alleged willingness to provide financial or operational support to terrorist organizations.
Almerfedi’s lawyers challenged his detention in US District Court, and in July 2010 Judge Paul Friedman concluded that the government had failed to show that his detention was lawful, even under the broad detention authority claimed by the government. Judge Friedman said: “the government simply has not shown by a preponderance of the evidence that petitioner had any ties to al-Qa’ida or to the Taliban or that he ever stayed at an al-Qa’ida guesthouse in Iran.” Judge Friedman also said that the evidence of his association with JT presented by the government “fails utterly” to corroborate his alleged role as a facilitator for al-Qa’ida in Iran.
The US government appealed Judge Friedman’s decision, arguing that he had incorrectly found certain evidence unreliable, and therefore excluded it, and also failed to give sufficient weight to the evidence he did consider. In a ruling issued on 10 June 2011, the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit agreed, and overturned Judge Friedman’s decision, finding that the government had demonstrated by a “preponderance of the evidence” that Almerfedi was lawfully detained.
In November 2011, Almerfedi’s lawyers petitioned the US Supreme Court to hear his case, but it refused to do so, without comment. At the same time, the Court refused to review a number of similar petitions from other Guantánamo detainees whose detentions had been upheld by the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.
In their petition to the Supreme Court, Almerfedi’s attorneys had also asked it to consider the broader question of whether the Court of Appeals is denying Guantánamo detainees their right to the “meaningful” review of their detention promised by the Supreme Court in its June 2008 Boumediene v Bush which guaranteed the constitutional right of the Guantánamo detainees to challenge the legality of their detention in federal court. In the petition, the attorneys argued that the lower court had “gone far to deprive the detainees of a meaningful habeas remedy” and urged the Supreme Court to “revisit the Guantánamo cases”.
As of October 2012, 166 men remain held at Guantánamo. The majority have been held there without charge or trial for more than nine years. The Guantánamo Review Task Force, established under President Barack Obama's 22 January 2009 executive order on closing the Guantánamo detention facility, recommended in its final report in January 2010 that 36 detainees be prosecuted by the USA, either in federal court or in military commissions, that 48 others continue to be held without charge or trial, and that the remainder be transferred out of Guantánamo, to countries other than the USA, either immediately or eventually. Some of those who could not be returned to their home countries have been offered a new home in third countries in Europe and elsewhere.
Approximately 50% of the 166 detainees who remain at Guantánamo are Yemeni nationals. The Guantánamo Review Task Force approved 36 Yemeni nationals for repatriation and another 30 were designated for possible future transfer when security conditions are deemed to have been met. However, transfers to Yemen from Guantánamo were suspended in December 2009 (with one exception: Mohammed al-Odaini was returned to Yemen in June 2010), after it was revealed that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who had attempted to blow up a US plane en route to the USA from Amsterdam on Christmas Day 2009, had been recruited in Yemen.