Published June 22, 2009
WASHINGTON -- A federal judge on Monday ordered a Guantanamo detainee released after chastising prosecutors for claiming a man tortured, imprisoned and abandoned by Al Qaeda and the Taliban could still be working with them.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon emphatically rejected the government's claims against Abd Al Rahim Abdul Rassak, even going so far as to add punctuation to get his point across.
The government had argued that even though Rassak was tortured by Al Qaeda as a suspected Western spy, and imprisoned by the Taliban for a year and a half, he still maintained some kind of allegiance to his tormentors.
"I disagree!" wrote the judge, adding U.S. officials are "taking a position that defies common sense."
Making Rassak's story even more strange, the judge said the government and the U.S. media initially mistook Rassak as one of a number of suicide martyrs based on videotapes captured at an Al Qaeda safe house. Further investigation showed the tape actually showed Al Qaeda torturing him.
In a 13-page written decision, the judge heaped scorn on the suggestion that Rassak could be part of the same terrorist organizations that had abused him.
Rassak, a Syrian, had admitted to U.S. interrogators that in 2000, he stayed for several days at a guesthouse used by Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters, where he helped clean weapons, and then briefly attended a terror training camp.
"There is no evidence -- from either side -- as to why he suddenly was suspected by Al Qaeda leaders of spying and was tortured for months into giving a false confession," Leon wrote. "It is highly unlikely that by that point in time Al Qaeda (or the Taliban) had any trust or confidence in him. Surely extreme treatment of that nature evinces a total evisceration of whatever relationship might have existed!"
One of the detainee's lawyers, Steven Wax, said the judge's decision "is yet another reminder that there are innocent men in Guantanamo."
Wax said his client "was conscripted by the Taliban who then turned on him after three weeks and subjected him to barbaric torture. He was imprisoned by the United States when he tried to provide information to us about his torturers."
Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said the agency was reviewing the judge's ruling.
Since his captivity at Guantanamo, Rassak has adopted a different last name, Janko.