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U.S. appeals court rejects claims of detainees at Bagram base in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON — A key appellate court on Friday concluded that prisoners held at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan cannot challenge their captivity through rights granted under the U.S. Constitution.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that Yemeni native Fadi al-Maqaleh and two other men don't enjoy the same habeas rights previously extended by the Supreme Court to Guantanamo Bay detainees.

Maqaleh was captured in Afghanistan in 2003, U.S. officials say. He says he was captured outside the country. Redha al-Najar is a native of Tunisia who says he was captured in Pakistan in 2002. Amin al-Bakri, a Yemeni citizen, says he was captured in Thailand in 2002.

Citing geographic and other differences between the air base in Afghanistan and the naval base in Cuba, the court overturned a trial court's conclusion that the Bagram detainees were constitutionally similar to those held at Guantanamo.

"Guantanamo Bay is a territory that, while technically not a part of the United States, is under the complete and total control of our government," Judge David Sentelle wrote. At the sprawling Soviet-era Bagram facility "there is no indication of any intent to occupy the base with permanence."

The three-judge panel further noted that Bagram, unlike Guantanamo, is "exposed to the vagaries of war" because of its location in an active war zone. On Wednesday, driving the point home, seven Taliban fighters died when they attacked the facility, roughly 40 miles north of Kabul, the Afghan capital.

Sentelle, one of the most conservative judges on the D.C. Circuit, was joined by two members of the court's liberal wing, Judges David Tatel and Harry Edwards.

U.S. appeals court rejects claims of detainees at Bagram base in Afghanistan 05/21/10 [Last modified: Friday, May 21, 2010 11:52pm]
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