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Terror Suspects Can Challenge Detention in U.S. Courts

WASHINGTON -- A federal judge ruled on Thursday that prisoners in the war on terror can use U.S. civilian courts to challenge their detention at a military air base in Afghanistan.

U.S. District Judge John Bates turned down the United States' motion to deny the right to three foreign detainees at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have the right to challenge their detention in court. But the government had argued that it did not apply to those in Afghanistan.

Bates said the cases were essentially the same and he quoted the Supreme Court ruling repeatedly in his judgment and applied the test created by it to each detainee. It is the first time a federal judge has applied the ruling to detainees in Afghanistan.

Bates considered the requests of four detainees asking to be released, but he reserved judgment on one detainee, Haji Wazir, because he is an Afghan citizen and releasing him could create "practical obstacles in the form of friction with the host country." He ordered Wazir and the government to file memos addressing those issues.

The other three detainees are from outside Afghanistan -- Fadi al Maqaleh of Yemen, Amin al Bakri of Yemen and Redha al-Najar of Tunisia.

All four of the detainees in this case were captured outside Afghanistan but have been held at the airfield for six years or more. Bates wrote that the determination to hold them as enemy combatants is part of a process even more inadequate at Bagram than it is at Guantanamo.