Appeals panel overturns man's detention

July 1, 2008 at 6:54 AM
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WASHINGTON, July 1 (UPI) -- A U.S. federal appeals court reversed a military tribunal finding for holding a detainee in the first case reviewing the government's secret evidence.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit three-judge panel unanimously said tribunals and courts must be able to assess evidence's reliability before determining a detainee's fate, something not done for Huzaifa Parhat, a Chinese Uighur housed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

The ruling is the first successful appeal of a detainee's designation as an enemy combatant since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled detainees can appeal their detentions in civilian court. It ordered the government to release, transfer or have a new hearing for Parhat, captured in 2001 in Afghanistan, where he said he went to escape China.

The opinion was issued June 20 and parts of it were declassified and released Monday.

The panel said the government's allegations against the detainee shouldn't be accepted as true simply because some were repeated in at least three secret documents, drawing on a 19th-century Lewis Carroll poem in its ruling -- "I have said it thrice: What I tell you three times is true," the New York Post reported.

"This comes perilously close to suggesting that whatever the government says must be treated as true," the panel said.

A Justice Department spokesman told the Post the department is "evaluating our options." Parhat's lawyer said the opinion shows courts won't just accept "the government's say-so."

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