Abdul Rahim insists he is an apolitical student who fled a strict father. But he has fallen into a black hole in the "war on terror" in which first the Taliban and then the US imprisoned him as an enemy of the state.
Arrested by the Taliban in Afghanistan in January 2000, Rahim says al-Qaeda leaders burned him with cigarettes, smashed his right hand, deprived him of sleep, nearly drowned him and hanged him from the ceiling until he "confessed" to spying for the US.
US forces took the young Kurd from Syria into custody in January 2002 after the Taliban fled his prison. Accusing him of being an al-Qaeda terrorist, US interrogators deprived him of sleep, threatened him with police dogs and kept him in stress positions for hours, he says. He's been held ever since as an enemy combatant.
Rahim's story is one of several emerging from the US prison at Guantanamo Bay as defense lawyers make bids to free their clients while the George W. Bush administration tries to use a new law to lock them out of federal courts.
After the Supreme Court overturned Bush's plans for commissions to try detainees, Bush obtained a new law from Congress barring federal courts from hearing appeals for release by any alien "properly detained as an enemy combatant." The Justice Department told district and appellate judges last week they no longer have jurisdiction to hear dozens of such pending cases.
Calling the move to strip jurisdiction "a direct attack on our constitutional structure," Federal Public Defender Steven Wax said "We will litigate that as hard as we can in whatever forum we can find, because they are wrong."
Other detainees whose lawyers filed new evidence in US District Court motions this month include Adel Hassan Hamad, a Sudanese charity worker arrested on July 18, 2002, in his Peshawar, Pakistan, apartment. A dissenting US Army major on the panel that reviewed the unclassified and secret evidence against him called it "unconscionable" to detain him because some employees of the same charity may have supported terrorist ideals.
Another detainee is Nazar "Chaman" Gul, a 29-year-old Afghani who thought he was working as an armed fuel depot guard for the Karzai government. He is accused of being a member of a terrorist group.
All three are represented by Wax. Wax's staff traveled to Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates to gather dozens of sworn statements from co-workers, relatives, fellow inmates and people who knew these detainees but haven't spoken to them in years. These newly filed accounts substantiate details of the detainees' denials that they were terrorists.
Wax said it would be unconstitutional to apply the jurisdiction-stripping bill retroactively to existing cases. And he said the Supreme Court has ruled before that it has the final say over its jurisdiction in these so-called habeas corpus petitions for release from custody. Following President Abraham Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus for prisoners of war, the high court in 1866 set a man free after finding he was not a prisoner of war, Wax noted.
The government feels differently about Wax's clients.
"Multiple reviews have been conducted since each detained enemy fighter was captured, including for these three individuals," said a Pentagon spokesman, Navy Commander Jeffrey Gordon.