IJNetwork Press Release New York, NY, May 18, 2010-- The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia yesterday agreed to vacate a lower court ruling denying habeas rights to Afghan detainees held by the United States at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan. The International Justice Network (IJNetwork) originally filed the case in September 2006 on behalf of Mr. Haji Pacha Wazir, an Afghan businessman detained for more than seven years without justification by the US government at the infamous Bagram prison in Afghanistan.
Mr. Wazir, a well-respected owner of a successful currency exchange business in Afghanistan, was kidnapped by the US Central Intelligence Agency in 2002 while on a business trip in Dubai. He was secretly rendered by the United States to several undisclosed "black sites" where he was brutally interrogated prior to being sent to the US military prison at Bagram. In June 2009, US District Court Judge John D. Bates dismissed Mr. Wazir's case, ruling that US Courts lacked jurisdiction over cases brought by Afghan citizens held at Bagram. IJNetwork appealed the decision to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, where Mr. Wazir's case remained pending until yesterday.
In March 2010, after more than seven years of imprisonment without charge, Mr. Wazir was finally released to freedom by the US government. Upon his release, Mr. Wazir was offered an apology by US authorities for his prolonged detention, and then flown to Jalalabad to be reunited with his family. Mr. Wazir was greeted by hundreds of supporters who had been awaiting his arrival. Immediately following Mr. Wazir's release from US custody, the US government requested that the Court of Appeals dismiss his case as moot.
Yesterday's order dismisses Mr. Wazir's appeal as moot due to his release from US custody. However, by vacating the lower court's ruling in the case, it also eliminates any negative legal effect of the decision in future cases brought on behalf of Afghan detainees held at Bagram.
The Court of Appeals had put off considering Mr. Wazir's case until it could rule on an earlier decision isssued by Judge Bates in April 2009 in a related case, Maqaleh v. Gates. In that case, IJNetwork had successfully argued that three non-Afghan citizens taken to Bagram had a Constitutional right to petition US courts to challenge their detention. However, before the cases could proceed, the Obama Administration appealed the decision. Oral arguments were heard in the Maqaleh case on January 7, 2010 and an decision is expected imminently.