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Guantanamo appeals turned away by justices

By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer
  • The justices turned aside the appeals without comment
  • Federal courts in Washington have been tasked with handling Guantanamo appeals
  • The high court for now has chosen to stay out of the current appeals

Washington (CNN) -- The Supreme Court on Monday rejected separate appeals from three detainees at the Guantanamo Bay military prison over their access to federal courts to challenge their indefinite detentions.

All have been held in high-security custody for at least nine years.

The justices without comment turned aside appeals from the terror suspects held at the U.S. Navy facility in eastern Cuba.

Among the questions was whether a Guantanamo prisoner who was not engaged in armed conflict when captured has a "meaningful opportunity" to contest his detention.

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Federal district courts in Washington have been tasked with handling the appeals from dozens of current and former inmates, and they have established binding rules on who may go to court and under what circumstances.

The high court for now has chosen to stay out of the current appeals. The justices in past rulings have allowed terror suspects held overseas by the United States to challenge their detention in federal courts. Judges have also been given authority by the Supreme Court to order the release of some suspects.

But since a 2008 Supreme Court ruling, a federal appeals court has tightened the procedures for what are called habeas challenges -- dealing with unlimited government custody of a prisoner without charges being brought. That has led to a fresh series of appeals to the Supreme Court, urging clarification.

The appeals blocked Monday include those of:

-- Fawzi al-Odah, from Kuwait, prisoner number 232. He claims he was traveling to the Pakistan/Afghanistan region in 2001 to do charity and teaching work, not to engage in terrorist activity. His case has been one of the most active in the federal courts. The Supreme Court three years ago ruled in his favor, striking down the military commission system in place at the time to try suspected foreign terrorists.

-- Adham Mohammed Ali Awad (also known as Waqas Mohammed Ali Awad) from Yemen, prisoner number 88. He lost part of his right leg in an air raid in Afghanistan. He says he was visiting a bazaar at the time, and denies being an al Qaeda fighter. Authorities say he has incited four disturbances while at Guantanamo.

-- Ghaleb Nassar Al Bihani, also from Yemen, prisoner number 128. He served as a cook for the Taliban's 55th Arab Brigade, but claims he never was engaged in battle. Authorities say he traveled from Saudi Arabia in 2001 to engage in jihad. Justice Elena Kagan did not participate in this particular high court appeal, since she was the Obama administration's solicitor general last year when the case was still working its way through the courts. There was no explanation why Kagan did consider the other two rejected appeals, since both were also under review by the administration during that same period in 2010.

The cases are Awad v. Obama (10-736); Al Odah v. U.S. (10-439) and al-Bihani v. Obama (10-7814).