WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An appeals court on Tuesday upheld the government’s detention at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba of a Yemeni who attended an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan and twice met Osama bin Laden.
The three-judge panel ruled for the Obama administration in overturning a lower court’s decision last year that had ordered the release of Mohammed Al Adahi, who has been held more than eight years at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo.
Pakistani authorities in late 2001 captured the former Yemeni security guard who had served in the Yemeni army. He insisted that he was not part of al Qaeda and had never fought against the United States.
The appeals court ruled that U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler had erred in ordered al Adahi’s release. It said he met with bin Laden, had stayed at an al Qaeda guesthouse and attended an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan.
“As to his loyalty to the al Qaeda cause, his sister was married to one of bin Laden’s most trusted associates,” Judge A. Raymond Randolph wrote in the 19-page ruling.
“One of the most damaging and powerful items of evidence against him is classified,” Randolph said. “In all, there can be no doubt that al Adahi was more likely than not part of al Qaeda.”
The court rejected as implausible Adahi’s explanation about his personal audience with the al Qaeda leader and his claims that it had been common at the time for bin Laden to meet with visitors in Kandahar.
The Yemeni is one of about 180 prisoners left at the Guantanamo prison. President Barack Obama has pledged to close it, but those efforts have been delayed by political, legal and diplomatic hurdles.
Reporting by James Vicini, Editing by Eric Walsh