In D.C.’s imposing federal courthouse, the doors to a courtroom, behind which is an airy room of sky- blue carpet and enormous, UFO-like light fixtures, are sometimes locked. When the big wooden portals are bolted, it’s not always because the judge is out. Sometimes it’s to protect classified information leaking out.
As a reporter who likes to wander from courtroom to courtroom, it always shocks me to be denied access. Today, it was the courtroom of Judge Reggie Walton that was latched. Walton was considering a petition of habeas corpus filed on behalf of Umar Hamzayevich Abdulayev, a native of Tajikistan who was captured by Pakistani police or intelligence agents (or both) near Peshawar, Pakistan in 2002. Abdulayev wound up at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
Five years ago Abdulayev filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, which would force his accusers to produce evidence and charges in order to keep him. A call to one of the government attorneys opposing the petition wasn’t immediately returned.
Abdulayev’s lawyer, John Andrew Moss, is optimistic. He says that there’s a good chance that, after five years of litigation, Abdulayev will have his petition granted. So far, Gitmo prisoners have won such petitions 38 times, and have been denied them 21 times. Moss says that D.C.’s court has seen scores of these cases, and will see more. Many of them are bound to be closed. The public, apparently, will have to get used to being shut out.
Photo by woodleywonderworks Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0 Generic