Supreme Court rejects case of Guantánamo captive claiming to be medic

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal by a Guantánamo Bay captive who says he served as a Taliban medic, not a combatant, refusing for the second time in a month to spell out the limits of military detention.

The nation’s highest court today left intact a lower court ruling against Mukhtar Yahia Naji al-Warafi, a Yemeni citizen who has been held for 12 years at the U.S. military base in Cuba. He was captured along with Taliban forces in Afghanistan in 2001.

Warafi argued that his detention violates the 1949 Geneva Convention, which gives special protections to medical personnel. He said his detention goes beyond the 2001 U.S. law that lets the president indefinitely hold al-Qaida and Taliban fighters.

The Obama administration urged the court to reject the appeal, saying Warafi traveled to Afghanistan to fight with the Taliban, received weapons training and was assigned to a fighting unit. He got to the prison camps in Cuba in May 2002, and has never been charged with a crime.

In January 2010, a federal task force review approved Warafi for conditional release from Guantánamo. It said he could leave the prison camps in Cuba for a rehabilitation program in his native Yemen with security assurances from that nation, or to a third nation for resettlement with conditions. No agreements have apparently been reached.

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The justices rejected a separate inmate appeal last month, leaving intact a ruling that said judges have only a limited role to play in questioning whether the U.S. government has grounds to hold someone at Guantánamo.

More than 150 foreign men are being held at the Guantánamo detention center, a facility President Barack Obama vowed to close within a year when he took office in 2009. Obama renewed his call to shut down the facility this year, amid opposition from congressional Republicans.

The Supreme Court last took up a Guantánamo case in 2008, when a 5-4 majority said inmates have constitutional rights and may seek release in federal court through what lawyers call habeas corpus petitions.

The case is Al-Warafi v. Obama, 13-768.

Miami Herald reporter Carol Rosenberg added information to this report from Miami.

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