Guilty Even After Proven Innocent

November 14th, 2005at 03:43pm Posted by Eli

Very disturbing column in today’s Washington Post, written by P. Sabin Willett, a defense lawyer for some of the Gitmo detainees:

As the Senate prepared to vote Thursday to abolish the writ of habeas corpus, Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jon Kyl were railing about lawyers like me. Filing lawsuits on behalf of the terrorists at Guantanamo Bay. Terrorists! Kyl must have said the word 30 times.

As I listened, I wished the senators could meet my client Adel.

Adel is innocent. I don’t mean he claims to be. I mean the military says so. It held a secret tribunal and ruled that he is not al Qaeda, not Taliban, not a terrorist. The whole thing was a mistake: The Pentagon paid $5,000 to a bounty hunter, and it got taken.

The military people reached this conclusion, and they wrote it down on a memo, and then they classified the memo and Adel went from the hearing room back to his prison cell. He is a prisoner today, eight months later. And these facts would still be a secret but for one thing: habeas corpus.

Only habeas corpus got Adel a chance to tell a federal judge what had happened. Only habeas corpus revealed that it wasn’t just Adel who was innocent — it was Abu Bakker and Ahmet and Ayoub and Zakerjain and Sadiq — all Guantanamo “terrorists” whom the military has found innocent.


In a wiser past, we tried Nazi war criminals in the sunlight. Summing up for the prosecution at Nuremberg, Robert Jackson said that “the future will never have to ask, with misgiving: ‘What could the Nazis have said in their favor?’ History will know that whatever could be said, they were allowed to say…. The extraordinary fairness of these hearings is an attribute of our strength.”


The secretary of defense chained Adel, took him to Cuba, imprisoned him and sends teams of lawyers to fight any effort to get his case heard. Now the Senate has voted to lock down his only hope, the courts, and to throw away the key forever. Before they do this, I have a last request on his behalf. I make it to the 49 senators who voted for this amendment.

The technical detail here is that Adel is an Uighur, a member of China’s repressed Muslim minority, and therefore might not be safe in his home country. But the DoD has been saying this for over two years now, while claiming to be searching for a safe haven for him. This would be a lot more believable if they weren’t trying to cover up his status and suppress his attempts to gain release. It sounds like an excuse to keep an inconvenient and embarrassing person under wraps; not sincere concern for his well-being.

In other words, not only are we holding people prisoner indefinitely who have not been convicted of terrorism, we are also indefinitely holding people who have been acquitted of terrorism. The Republican gremlins (and some of their allegedly Democratic friends) are nibbling away at the Constitution while America sleeps. Will there be anything left when we wake up?

Entry Filed under: Bush,Constitution,Prisoners,Republicans,Terrorism

No Comments yet

  • 1. flory  |  November 14th, 2005 at 7:02 pm


    The only fair punishment for these rat bastards is to spend the rest of their lives at Gitmo.


  • 2. OyToTheWorld  |  November 17th, 2005 at 10:18 am

    I believe it’s now “Guilty until proven dead.”

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