US to release Gitmo detainee

WASHINGTON: A US judge ordered the release of a Kuwaiti held at Guantanamo Bay for nearly eight years, directing "all necessary and appropriate" steps be taken to repatriate him, his lawyer said.

Khaled Al-Mutairi, 34, was sent to the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after being arrested in Pakistan in 2001.

He was picked up after traveling to Afghanistan with a charitable organization to build mosques and provide funds for schools and orphanages.

US District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly "ordered that the government is directed to take all necessary and appropriate diplomatic steps to facilitate the release of petitioner Al-Mutairi," defense lawyer David Cynamon said.

The US Justice Department said it would review the ruling before deciding whether to appeal.

Kollar-Kotelly's reasons for clearing the detainee were not immediately known because her full opinion was classified.

"Since his imprisonment, all that Khaled Al-Mutairi and his family have asked for is a fair hearing before an independent, impartial court to test the evidence against him," Cynamon said in a statement.

"After more than seven long years of imprisonment, justice has finally been served for Khaled," he said.

Al-Mutairi was held at the US detention center at Guantanamo as an "enemy combatant," a designation used by the administration of former president George W. Bush to justify indefinite detention of terrorism suspects.

The US Supreme Court in June 2008 gave detainees at Guantanamo the right to challenge their detention in federal court in Washington under the principle of habeas corpus, the cornerstone of Anglo-Saxon law.

Federal judges have already reviewed some 30 cases and in the majority of them concluded that the government did not have sufficient evidence to establish guilt and continue detentions.

Cynamon noted that three other Kuwaitis suspected of terrorism remain at Guantanamo, including Fayiz Al-Kandari, who has been formally charged with war crimes but is yet to appear before a military court.

Their habeas corpus hearings are supposed to be held in August and September, Cynamon said.

"There were originally 12 Kuwaitis in Guantanamo Bay. In 2005 and 2006, the United States returned eight of them to Kuwait where that country's courts charged, tried and cleared them of wrongdoing," he said.

There are currently 229 detainees at the prison in Guantanamo, which US President Barack Obama has promised to close by January 2010.