Algerian Guantanamo detainee Lakhdar Boumediene, arrested in Bosnia in 2001 and accused of conspiring to bomb the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo, is currently on a plane to France, where he will be placed in French custody and presumably freed, ABC News has learned.
Last November, a federal district judge ordered Boumediene and four others released, finding the evidence against them not credible.
Boumediene, his wife and their two daughters have all been offered residency in France, according to the French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. When President Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy met at Palais Rohan in Strasbourg, France, on April 3, the French leader announced that as part of European efforts to aid the US in closing Guantanamo, France had agreed to accept an Algerian prisoner.
"If we are consistent we take that prisoner," Sarkozy said. "In France, our word is our bond
Boumediene may be best known for the Supreme Court case Boumediene v. Bush which, consolidated with a separate habeas petition Al Odah v. United States, successfully challenged the legality of Boumediene’s detention and the constitutionality of the Military Commissions Act of 2006.
On June 12, 2008, in a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court held that "detainees, under the Constitution, are "entitled to the privilege of habeas corpus to challenge the legality of their detention."
Prosecutors so ordered that evidence had to be presented, the courts found it rather flimsy. Judge Richard J. Leon of Federal District Court wrote that while the US government claimed that Boumediene and five other detainees arrested "had a plan to travel to Afghanistan to engage U.S. and allied forces," the case was far from proven.
For five of the detainees, including Boumediene, the Government "relies exclusively on the information contained in a classified document from an unnamed source," Leon wrote. "This source is the only evidence in the record." Prosecutors had "not provided the Court with enough information to adequately evaluate the credibility of this source’s information."
Leon, a former Republican congressional counsel during investigations into "Iran-Contra," "October Surprise" and "Whitewater," was appointed by President Bush to the bench in 2002. He ruled that "to allow enemy combatancy to rest on so thin a reed would be inconsistent with this court’s obligation; the court must and will grant their petitions and order their release."
As for the sixth detainee, Belkacem Bensayah, Judge Leon found that the government has corroborated its evidence that he "is an al-Qaida facilitator" who intended to travel to Afghanistan to take up arms against the US.
- Jake Tapper and Kirit Radia