Thursday, October 12, 2006

Federal Defenders secure release of "enemy combatant" shepherd

Another SDFLA exclusive!

We scooped the press on the Padilla motions last week here and here. Now we give you this story about Federal Defenders Paul Rashkind and Tim Cone and their victory in the case of Taj Mohammad.

Mr. Mohammad is a shepherd -- a member of the Gudjer Tribe, nomads who herd goats in the border mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Taj was arrested at his home in Afghanistan as a result of an argument and fight he had with his cousin, Ismael. Taj is 27 years-old, has a wife and a young son, who was an infant when he last saw him. Gudjers are a poor and peaceful tribe, who have remained nomads while their country dealt with hostilities, first from the Russians, then from the Taliban. Due to the proximity of the mountain range, Gudjers have moved back and forth into Pakistan for their own safety. Indeed, even though Taj Mohammad is a proud Afghan Gudjer, he was actually born a refugee in Pakistan during the time of the Russian occupation. Herding goats in the mountains is possible only while it is warm enough to do so. In winter, the family travels down the mountain to the valley, the Asadabad area, where they live during the colder seasons. Taj was "on the mountain" during hostilities between the US and Taliban forces. When he returned to the family home in the valley, after the coalition forces declared victory, he learned that his cousin Ismael had laid pipe to supply water to all the homes of his village, except the home lived in by Taj and his family. Taj and Ismael fought about this and Taj hit Ismael with a stick. In anger, Ismael falsely accused Taj of being a Taliban, to have him sent away. What Taj had not known when he fought with his cousin was that Ismael was supplying the water pipes at the U.S. military’s instructions. Four days later, December 9, 2002, Taj was visited at his home by the American military, who questioned him about the fight. They detained him, took him to Bagram, and eventually to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He was detained at GTMO as an "enemy combatant" for nearly four years.

The Defenders began representing Taj about a year ago and, after security clearances were approved, Paul Rashkind began to uncover evidence and develop a strategy to obtain his release. Just 14 days ago, Rashkind and Cone filed a set of classified challenges to Taj's continued detention, explaining why he should be released now. Last night, on the eve of the military hearing, Taj was on a plane back to Afghanistan. He was released to his family earlier today. Rashkind commented, "America was not a safer place while he was detained, but we can certainly feel better about ourselves now that he is home."


Todd and in Charge said...

Great reporting, David, and great legal work by Paul's office.

Anonymous said...

check out the "enemy combatant" t's i've created (not making money on them, btw):

god bless cafepress!