WASHINGTON - The Obama administration would quickly send home six Algerians held in the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but for one problem: The men don't want to go. Given the choice between repatriation and incarceration, the men choose Gitmo, according to their lawyers.
The administration secured a significant legal victory Thursday when a federal appeals court overturned a lower court's ruling that had barred the government from repatriating one of them. The detainee had asserted that if he is returned, the Algerian government will torture him, or he will be targeted by terrorist groups who will kill him if he refuses to join.
U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler had ruled that the claims of Farhi Saeed bin Mohammed, 49, who has been held at Guantanamo Bay for more than eight years, "are of great concern."
A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned Kessler late Thursday, granting the government's emergency appeal. Much of the litigation remains under seal, but the government argues that legal precedent makes clear the executive branch's prerogative to decide where to transfer a detainee.
The administration has been preparing to repatriate one of the six Algerians. But Doris Tennant, one of the lawyers for Aziz Abdul Naji, 35, who has been held at Guantanamo for more than eight years, said he is "adamantly opposed to going back."
Lawyers for the six cleared Algerians said their clients live in fear of being forcibly repatriated.
"These men would rather stay in Guantanamo for the rest of their lives than go to Algeria. That speaks volumes," said David Remes, an attorney for detainee Ahmed Belbacha, 40.