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Guantanamo detainee not entitled to due process claims, appeals court rules

War-on-terror captives conduct communal evening prayers at the Camp 6 prison building at the U.S. Navy Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on July 7, 2015. (Walter Michot/Miami Herald/TNS)
August 31, 2020

A U.S. federal appeals court ruled on Friday against a Guantanamo Bay detainee who claimed President Donald Trump’s authority to detain him indefinitely posed a violation of due process.

Abdulsalam Ali Abdulrahman Al Hela, a Yemeni businessman who has been detained by the U.S. since 2004, had tried to win release with a habeas corpus petition to either proceed with a trial or let him go. On Friday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia denied Al Hela’s due process claim, upholding a lower court’s 2019 decision striking down his request.

In its 47-page opinion, the court ruled Al Hela did not have grounds to raise his trial demands. The court ruled Al Hela has been detained under a valid use of the Suspension Clause, suspending his right to demand a speedy trial. The Suspension Clause of the constitution, Article I, Section 9, Clause 2, states “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.”

The court said Al Hela does not have the right to raise due process claims challenging the Suspension Clause because the Due Process Clause does not apply to non-citizens who do not hold property or have a presence in the U.S.

“We affirm the district court because the President has authority to detain Al Hela and the proceedings below complied with the requirements of the Suspension Clause,” Judge Neomi Rao wrote in the court’s opinion Friday. “We reject Al Hela’s due process claims because the Due Process Clause may not be invoked by aliens without property or presence in the sovereign territory of the United States.”

Al Hela has been detained at Guantanamo Bay since 2004 and is alleged to have had contacts with Al Qaeda and two other terror organizations, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the Aden-Abyan Islamic Army. Al Hela has filed previous due process claims in 2005 and 2014 and Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, respectively.

The Pentagon’s Periodic Review Board has routinely ruled in favor of continuing Al Hela’s detention. In a 2016 decision, the Pentagon board determined that “continued law of war detention of the detainee [Al Hela] remains necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States.”

Guantanamo Bay has been used to hold hundreds of suspected terrorists since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. According to the New York Times’ Guantanamo Bay docket tracker, around 780 people have been held at the U.S. detention facility in Cuba and some 40 detainees still remain at the facility.