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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit last week barred the Bush administration from transferring a Guant�namo Bay detainee to Algeria while it considers his appeal. Ahmed Belbacha is asking the court to intervene in his transfer because he fears reprisal by the Algerian government or an extremist group linked to al-Qaida. Chief Judge Douglas Ginsburg and Judges Thomas Griffith and A. Raymond Randolph heard arguments in the case Dec. 6. The D.C. Circuit’s order, issued Dec. 31, does not permanently prevent the transfer, but it blocks the government from handing Belbacha over to Algerian authorities while the court considers his request. And, significantly, the order buys time for Belbacha while the Supreme Court reviews Boumediene v. Bush to determine whether the lower courts have jurisdiction to hear such cases. “The D.C. Circuit has taken several steps to preserve its jurisdiction in other appeals pending the Supreme Court’s decision in Boumediene,” says Covington & Burling’s David Remes, Belbacha’s lawyer. Government lawyers have asked the court to uphold U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer’s finding last July that she lacked jurisdiction to consider Belbacha’s request. It’s unclear whether the D.C. Circuit will wait for direction from the Supreme Court before ruling. Belbacha’s lawyers say he could face torture or abuse if returned to Algeria, where he served in the army and later worked as an accountant for a state-owned oil company. The U.S. government has classified him as an enemy combatant and associated him with the Taliban, according to court documents. He has been held at the naval base since 2002.
Joe Palazzolo can be contacted at [email protected].

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