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Judge Orders Five Detainees Freed From Guantánamo

NYTimes.com

In the first hearing on the government’s justification for holding detainees at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp, a federal judge ruled Thursday that five Algerian men were held unlawfully for nearly seven years and ordered their release.

The judge, Richard J. Leon of Federal District Court in Washington, also ruled that a sixth Algerian man was being lawfully detained because he had provided support to the terrorist group Al Qaeda.

Judge Leon, in a ruling from the bench, said that the information gathered on the men had been sufficient to hold them for intelligence purposes, but was not strong enough in court.

“To rest on so thin a reed would be inconsistent with this court’s obligation,” he said. He directed that the five men be released “forthwith” and urged the government not to appeal.

Judge Leon, who was appointed by President Bush, had been expected to be sympathetic to the government. In 2005, he ruled that the men had no habeas corpus rights.

Lawyers said the decision was likely to be seen as a repudiation of the Bush administration’s effort to use the detention center at the American naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, as a way to avoid scrutiny by American judges.

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