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"Bremen Taliban" Celebrates Small Legal Victory

DW staff (dre)December 1, 2005

Murat Kurnaz has been imprisoned on Guantanamo Bay since 2002, charged as an enemy combatant despite evidence to the contrary. This week the "Bremen Taliban" celebrated a small legal victory.

Murat Kurnaz, taken before his capture in Pakistan in 2001Image: DW-World

It's not the release Kurnaz and his family were hoping for, but an administrative court's decision on Wednesday not to reject the Bremen's youth's residency permit allows him to re-enter the country once he's freed from Guantanamo Bay.

The interior minister of Bremen, where Kurnaz was born and raised, had revoked his residency permit because Kurnaz was not around to register himself. The 22-year-old has been imprisoned in US custody on Guantanamo Bay since being turned over to US soldiers near the Pakistani-Afghani border in October 2001. Lawyer Bernhard Docke, who has been working since then to free him, called this week's decision an important step.

"Through this decision the administrative court shows clearly that the law cannot be based on injustice and that German law won't import the ghost of Guantanamo," he said in a statement.

US judge backs his case

Bernhard Docke, Anwalt des "Bremer Taliban" Murat Kurnaz Porträtfoto
Lawyer Bernhard Docke has been fighting tirelessly for Kurnaz's releaseImage: presse

Though many of the prisoners held on the US military base in Cuba have since been released, Kurnaz is still considered an "enemy combatant" by the US State Department. US officials charge the Bremen resident with traveling to Pakistan in October 2001 in order to wage armed combat against American forces in Afghanistan. But Docke and Kurnaz's family maintain that he was only going to Pakistan to visit Quran schools, and was not even in Afghanistan, much less holding a gun, when turned over to US forces.

Their argument was bolstered earlier this year by US District Court Judge Joyce Hens Green, who singled out Kurnaz's case as an extreme example of illegal detention. Since then, there has been little movement on his case, despite evidence that exonerates him, say his lawyers.

Rabiye Kurnaz Mutter von Guantanamo Häftling
Kurnaz's mother, Rabiye, has traveled to Washington DC to take part in demonstrationsImage: AP

Recently declassified evidence seen by lawyer Baher Azmy reveal that the US government's "Command Information Task Force has no definite link/evidence of detainee having an association with al Qaeda or making a specific threat toward the US."

Allegations of torture

German officials doubted the charges almost immediately after his capture. Though he visited a Bremen mosque on the watch list of local law enforcement for suspected extremist views, officials found no connection between Kurnaz and the Islamic fundamentalist scene. The Bremen prosecutor abandoned an investigation into Kurnaz and his friend Selcuk Bilgin, who accompanied him as far as Frankfurt airport for lack of evidence in 2002.

Unlike France, Sweden and Britain in cases involving nationals of their countries imprisoned in Guantanamo, the German government has so far involved itself minimally in Kurnaz's case because he holds Turkish citizenship.

Taliban Gefangene in Guantanamo
Former detainees say torture and inhumane treatment are routine at the baseImage: AP

In the meantime, Azmy -- who visited Kurnaz in Guantanamo in January 2005 -- said he has endured inhuman treatment, including torture, following his capture and during his detainment.