Evidence suppression denied in al-Qurashi v. Obama

Georgetown SLB reports that judge Huvelle denied a motion to suppress certain evidence in connection with Sabry Mohammad Ebrahim al-Qurashi’s habeas petition.The motion presented a factual dispute as to whether al-Qurashi was abused while in Pakistani custody after being arrested in Karachi in February 2002, prior to his interrogation by an FBI agent the next day.

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  1. ASIL: The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia recently issued a partially-redacted memorandum opinion and order denying petitioner Al-Quarashi’s motion to suppress certain statements by him on grounds that they were involuntary and procured through coercion and torture. The petitioner, a Yemeni national, alleges that during his detention in Pakistan, he was coerced by Pakistani authorities to invent a story linking him to an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan.

    Sabry Mohammad Ebrahim Al-Qurashi alleges that he is being unlawfully detained in Guantanamo and that the facts supporting his detention—personal statements that he attended an al-Qaeda training camp—were false and illegally obtained. According to Al-Qurashi, Pakistani authorities promised him that the U.S. government would treat him well and release him if he confessed that he attended a training camp; however, if he were to tell the “truth” about his reason for visiting Afghanistan, he would be tortured and detained indefinitely. To aid him in fabricating his fictional link to al-Qaeda, Al-Qurashi claims that Pakistani authorities showed him images of the military training facility, made him memorize names, routes, and other information that would make him a seemingly valuable member of al-Qaeda. Al-Qurashi claims that initially he refused to lie, but after being severely beaten and threatened with more physical harm, he reluctantly agreed to tell an American agent false stories.

    The U.S. government argues, however, that it has a solid case, which rests mostly on the same statements that the petitioner claims were illegally obtained.

    Judge Huvelle held that if the petitioner’s initial statements were voluntary, then “the voluntariness of later statements . . . would be rendered irrelevant.” On the contrary, if his initial statements were involuntary because he was tortured, his subsequent statements “could arguably be tainted by that initial torture, regardless whether he was further mistreated in . . . other locations.” According to Judge Huvelle, the government’s claim denying that the statements were obtained illegally was more reliable. She based her decision on several factors, including the inconsistencies within the petitioner’s account of the events, the petitioner’s inability to show proof of torture, conflicting timelines in petitioner’s statements, and other details that did not match up. As a result, Judge Huvelle concluded that the government sustained its burden of proof that the “incriminating statements were made voluntary and are therefore admissible.” This means that the case against Al-Qurashi will proceed to trial.

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