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Yemeni goes home

The Obama administration said Tuesday it has repatriated a Yemeni detainee who was held at Guantanamo Bay, partially lifting its suspension of all transfers to Yemen after a federal court judge found "overwhelming evidence" the man had been held illegally for more than eight years.

Obama banned transfers to Yemen after the attempted Christmas Day bombing of an airliner approaching Detroit was linked to al-Qaeda supporters in that country.

Mohammed Odaini was a 17-year-old student in Pakistan in March 2002 when he was detained at a house he happened to visit on the night it was raided. Pakistani authorities turned Odaini and a number of other men over to the United States. And while Odaini was cleared for release by both the Bush and Obama administrations, he continued to be held at Guantanamo Bay.
A White House official said recently that the decision to transfer Odaini did not mark a shift in the general policy. The administration, though, may come under further pressure to quickly release Yemenis besides Odaini. As many as 20 more Yemenis could be ordered released by the courts for lack of evidence to justify their continued detention, an administration official estimated.

Odaini's attorney, David Remes, said he was "delighted" that his client was home.

"The evidence before the court shows that holding Odaini in custody at such great cost to him has done nothing to make the United States more secure," wrote U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr., ordering Odaini's release in an opinion that was declassified last month. "There is no evidence that Odaini has any connection to al Qaeda. . . . The court therefore emphatically concludes that Odaini's motion must be granted."

By Peter Finn  | July 13, 2010; 5:07 PM ET
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