A US judge has ordered the military to release a Guantanamo Bay detainee who was arrested in Pakistan when he was 14.
Mohamed el-Gharani was one of the first people to be sent to the military prison in Cuba in 2002, where he has been held ever since.
US District Judge Richard Leon ruled that el-Gharani, who is also known as Yousuf and is now 21, is not an enemy combatant and must be released. His lawyer says he was accused of being a member of al Qaida in 1998, when he would have been 11 years old.
El-Gharani, from Chad, was arrested at a mosque in Pakistan by police when he was 14. He was then turned over to US forces.
Judge Leon said el-Gharani should be released from the US prison in Cuba “forthwith”.
The military had accused him of being part of al Qaida, working for the Taliban and fighting American forces in Afghanistan. However, the judge said those accusations were based on testimony from other Guantanamo Bay detainees, which he found unreliable.
El-Gharani listened to the ruling by telephone from Cuba but did not react.
He could be on his way home to his family in a few weeks, lawyer Zackary Katznelson said. “Judge Leon did justice today.”
The government can appeal the decision.
“We’re disappointed by the ruling and will consider our options,” Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said.