As reported in the media today, Asadullah Haroon Gul has been released from Guantánamo Bay after fifteen years of detention without charge and returned to his home country of Afghanistan, where he will be reunited with his wife and daughter.
The US rendered Asadullah to Guantánamo 2007. His family feared him dead for many years and for the first nine years of his captivity, he did not have access to a lawyer, despite multiple attempts to obtain legal representation. Reprieve and the law firm Lewis Baach Kaufmann Middlemiss filed a writ for a petition of habeas corpus on his behalf in 2016, in which they demanded his release.
After years of litigation, in October 2021, they prevailed: the District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that Asadullah’s detention was not legal, because he had only been a part of Hezb-e-Islami (HIA), a group that has been formally at peace since 2016, and he was not a part of Al Qaeda. The judge thus ordered his release. Asadullah was the first Guantánamo Bay detainee in over ten years to win a habeas case.
Asadullah was also cleared for release by unanimous decision of six US federal agencies, namely the departments of State, Homeland Security, Justice, Defense, plus the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the office of the Director of National Intelligence in October 2021.
After months of waiting for the government to act, on April 25, 2022, Asadullah’s lawyers moved to hold the government in contempt of court for failing to comply with its order of release. His release today is the result of a hard-fought battle.
Asadullah has suffered severe physical and psychological torture during his detention, including being beaten, hung by his wrists, deprived of food and water, and prevented from praying. He has been subjected to sleep deprivation, extreme cold temperatures and solitary confinement.
Asadullah’s lawyer at Reprieve US, Mark Maher, said:
“After 15 years imprisoned without charge or trial and after a Federal judge declared his detention illegal, Asad is finally free.
“Asad missed his daughter’s entire childhood and he will never get back what has been taken from him, but he is now at least able to rebuild his life with his family, who have waited so long to see him.
“Ending Asad’s unlawful detention is an important step and we hope that the State Department will move quickly to release other detainees who have been cleared to leave but remain stuck in limbo, wondering when their long ordeal will end.”
Asadullah Haroon’s lawyer at Lewis Baach Kaufmann Middlemiss, Tara Plochocki, said:
“We are thrilled that, after fighting us every step of the way, the government has finally released Asad. The decision in this case shows that no one, not even the US government, is above the law. We thank the State Department for its efforts over the last two months to effectuate the court’s order and hope that they apply the same diligence to the other detainees who are eligible for release.”