WASHINGTON DC, USA (November 20,2008) - A US judge has ruled today that five Bosnian citizens of Algerian origin held in the US prison facility at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba for almost seven years had been illegally detained and must be freed.
Richard Leon, a US district judge in Washington DC, said the US government had "failed to show by burden of proof" that the five men had allegedly planned to go to Afghanistan to fight US-led forces there.
However the judge did find that a sixth man,Bensayah Belkacem, seized alongside the other men in Bosnia in 2001, had been "legally detained".
Six Bosnian citizens of Algerian origin,Bensayah Belkacem, Mustafa Adir, Saber Lahmar, Mohammed Nehle, Lakdar Boumedien and Boudellah Hadz, known as the Algerian Group, were arrested in Bosnia in October 2001 under suspicion of planning possible attacks against US and British diplomatic missions in Bosnia.
Although the Bosnian Supreme Court ordered their release, after finding no evidence of their alleged involvement in terrorist activities, then premier Lagumdzija ordered their arrest again in January 2002 and handed them over to the US authorities.
The ruling follows the first hearings under a landmark US Supreme Court ruling in June, based on a case brought by lawyers for Lakhdar Boumediene, one of the Algerian men, that gave Guantanamo prisoners the legal right to challenge their continued detention.
The June ruling said that inmates in Guantanamo Bay had the right to know under what charges they were being held and what the evidence was against them.
Thursday's decision marks a fresh embarrassment over the camp for the Bush administration and comes after Barack Obama, the US president-elect, pledged to close the prison camp after taking office in January.