WASHINGTON (AP) – A U.S. appeals court gave a reprieve Friday to a Guantanamo Bay detainee who is fighting the Bush administration’s effort to return him to Algeria where he says he likely would be tortured.
A panel of appellate judges in Washington said the case of Ahmed Belbacha deserves another review by a U.S. District Court judge.
The 2-1 appeals court ruling says the probability of Belbacha’s prevailing “is far from clear, but in light of the seriousness of the harm he claims to face, namely, torture,” Belbach’s case deserves further consideration.
Belbacha contends that if he ends up back in his home country of Algeria, his life would be in danger, both from the government and from al-Qaeda.
Writing for the majority, appeals judge Douglas Ginsburg noted that the Supreme Court is considering whether Guantanamo detainees may challenge their detention in civilian courts.
The Bush administration might be without authority to transfer Belbacha to Algeria if the Supreme Court rules in the detainees’ favor and if a judge concludes that Belbacha’s detention is unlawful, the appeals court stated.
In dissent, appeals court judge A. Raymond Randolph said the court should have simply delayed proceeding with the Belbacha case and blocked his transfer rather than sending the matter back to a U.S. District court.
A high-level Algerian delegation recently visited the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and confirmed the identities of 17 Algerians imprisoned there, the Algerian government says.
Assistant U.S. Secretary of State David Welch said during a recent visit to Algeria that Washington wants an accord soon with Algeria on repatriating its citizens released from Guantanamo.