Judge Orders Release of Guantanamo Detainee

March 23, 2010 - 8:43 AM
The detainee remains at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the Obama administration could appeal Robertson's order.
Washington (AP) - A judge has ordered the release of a Guantanamo Bay detainee described in the 9/11 commission report as a significant al-Qaida operative who provided advice to three of the Sept. 11 hijackers.
 
The ruling in favor of detainee Mohamedou Ould Salahi was disclosed Monday in a two-sentence court entry.
 
U.S. District Judge James Robertson will issue a written decision at a later date explaining his reasons for granting the detainee's petition.
 
The detainee remains at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the Obama administration could appeal Robertson's order. Even if the administration were to decide against appealing, Salahi would remain at Guantanamo until U.S. diplomats found a nation willing to accept him.
 
The 9/11 Commission report says Salahi was known to U.S. and German intelligence a decade ago and living in Germany when he gave instructions to four men about how to reach Afghanistan to train for jihad.
 
Three of the men later became Sept. 11 hijackers -- Mohamed Atta, Ziad Jarrah and Marwan al Shehhi. The fourth was Ramzi Binalshibh, who helped coordinate the 9/11 plot and who now faces trial.
 
Salahi was arrested in his home country of Mauritania late in 2001.
 
Lt. Col. Stuart Couch, a former military prosecutor who prosecuted terrorism planners and financiers for the Marine Corps for three years, has said Salahi was one of the men he was assigned to prosecute.
 
Couch told a University of Georgia audience last year that he discovered interrogators had obtained much of the evidence against Salahi through torture and refused to press charges.
 
Couch said he tried to resign, but was told he would be demoted to captain and sent into combat in Iraq if he quit. He dropped the Salahi case and stayed on as a prosecutor until his assignment ended, when he was named an appellate judge.