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Federal appeals court rules against Guantanamo detainee

By Bill Mears, CNN
January 11, 2012 -- Updated 1617 GMT (0017 HKT)
Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif has been held at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. military prison since 2001, according to court records.
Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif has been held at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. military prison since 2001, according to court records.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif had filed a false imprisonment claim
  • A district court had supported him
  • The appeals court tells the lower court to look at "the totality of the evidence"

Washington (CNN) -- A divided federal appeals panel has ruled against a suspected terrorist held at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. military prison, saying the strength of his claim of false imprisonment has not yet been fully established.

The 2-1 panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on Thursday ordered a lower court to re-evaluate the allegations of false imprisonment made by Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif.

"We remand so the district court can evaluate Latif's credibility as needed in light of the totality of the evidence, including newly available evidence as appropriate," the ruling said.

The case had been argued in secret because of national security concerns raised by the Obama administration, and large sections of the 53-page main ruling were blacked out.

Court records show Latif, 35, was first detained in 2001, shortly after the September 11 attacks. Pakistan security forces turned him over to the U.S. military.

He eventually was transferred to Camp Delta, the high-security facility at the Guantanamo naval base for enemy combatants in the war on terror. He was questioned hundreds of times, enduring what his lawyers claim was "physical and mental torture."

A look at the Guantanamo Bay prison
Ben Wedeman's 2005 visit to Gitmo
Former detainee recalls time at Gitmo

Latif did not receive his initial status hearing -- a legal requirement where the government had to present evidence that might lead to an eventual military prosecution -- until 2004. The Defense Department later that year determined the Yemeni native had not participated in terrorist training overseas. Three years later, U.S. officials concluded he could be transferred from the military facility in Cuba, to another country. But he remains in U.S. custody while his legal appeals continue.

In those appeals, Latif contests the living conditions at Guantanamo and his continued confinement without any charges being brought. A federal judge last year granted the prisoner's writ for habeas corpus, forcing the government to justify his ongoing imprisonment. The Center for Constitutional Rights, which has taken on Latif's appeal, says he is being held in a psychological ward and is in "suicidal despair" over his nearly decade-long confinement.

The administration said it was working to resolve the situation.

"The government respectfully requests the court's patience as (officials) work toward compliance with the court's order without compromising the governments sensitive national security and foreign policy concerns or the governments ability to seek further review of the court's decision," the Justice Department said in a recent filing.

"Why they continue to defend holding him is unfathomable," said David Remes, one of Latif's attorneys. "Adnan's case reflects the Obama administration's complete failure to bring the Guantanamo litigation under control."

Federal courts have been at odds over the years regarding their ability to force the administration to legally justify the continued detention of Guantanamo prisoners. The Supreme Court has said those inmates deserve access to the federal courts to press their claims.

The first military prosecution of a Guantanamo prisoner moved ahead this week. Abd al-Rahim Hussayn Muhammad al-Nashiri was arraigned Wednesday at the military facility for his alleged role in the bombing of the USS Cole, the 2000 attack that took the lives of 17 American sailors.

The issue in the separate Latif case is the reliability of the intelligence gathered by the United States that is used to justify his imprisonment. The appeals court concluded a federal judge had not made a formal finding Latif was a credible witness.

The case is Latif v. Obama (10-5319).

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