Bush Rebuke, Part Two

A man who won the nation’s first ruling that Guantánamo Bay prisoners are entitled to a hearing in U.S. courts won’t be able to pursue the case in Los Angeles, where he filed it, but must proceed in Washington, D.C., under a decision handed down last week.

Belaid Gherebi petitioned the federal court in L.A. to win a hearing for his captive Libyan brother, whose name has been given variously in court papers as Salim, Fallen, Falen and Faren Gherebi. Judge A. Howard Matz rejected the habeas corpus petition but was overruled late last year by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which rejected the Bush administration’s assertion that the military base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, is a special enclave, under the control of the U.S. but outside the reach of U.S. courts.

The case normally would have returned immediately to Matz, but the appeals panel’s order was put on hold pending the decision last month by the U.S. Supreme Court in the substantially similar Rasul case.

In Rasul, the high court essentially adopted the 9th Circuit’s view and said Guantánamo prisoners could petition trial courts for hearings. But the justices at the same time rejected the petition of “dirty bomb” suspect Abdullah Al Muhajir (better known as Jose Padilla), because he brought it in New York instead of South Carolina, where the military has him locked up. Petitioners should go to federal courts in the locations where they are being held, the justices said.

There is no trial court in Guantánamo Bay for Gherebi’s brother to petition, so the 9th Circuit said the case should be brought in Washington, since that’s where President George W. Bush and the other officials responsible for his imprisonment are located.

The decision ends, for now, the starring role of Los Angeles courts in the proceedings that culminated last month in the Supreme Court’s historic rebuke to Bush.

The first case challenging the administration’s power to hold prisoners in Cuba without hearings was brought in federal court here by a coalition of religious leaders, lawyers and academics, including Venice attorney Stephen Yagman, USC law professor Erwin Chemerinsky, USC journalism professor and former New York Times reporter Kenneth Noble, and Rabbi Allen Freehling, director of the Los Angeles Human Relations Commission.

The case was thrown out after the court ruled the coalition lacked a close-enough relationship to the people they were trying to help. Yagman then brought the Gherebi case, which formed the foundation of the Supreme Court rulings.

Yagman also has sued Bush on Gherebi’s behalf, demanding $1 billion in damages for violation of his client’s civil rights.

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