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September 30, 2009

National Security Clinic obtains release and resettlement for Guantanamo client

A client of the National Security Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law, Moammar Dokhan, was freed after more than seven years of detention at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and successfully resettled in Portugal last month.  Dokhan is a Syrian citizen who was never charged and who was afraid to return to his home country for fear of persecution.  On September 23, 2009, Judge John Bates of the D.C. District Court dismissed Dokhan’s habeas petition in light of his release, bringing to a close the advocacy work done by law students in the Clinic on behalf of Dokhan.

The National Security Clinic filed a habeas petition on behalf of Dokhan in the spring of 2008. A number of students pursued his habeas case over several semesters and ultimately won his release through a combination of litigation and advocacy under the supervision of Clinic faculty.  After being released from detention and arriving in Portugal, Dokhan expressed tremendous gratitude for the Clinic’s efforts on his behalf. 

In addition to drafting the habeas petition, the Clinic students worked on numerous motions and briefs and prepared for hearings, including one of great significance on the U.S. Government’s authority to detain foreign nationals at Guantanamo.  That hearing led to a decision by Judge Bates viewed as favorable to the detainees and relied upon by other district court judges.

Representing a Guantanamo detainee was a uniquely challenging experience,” Clinic student Laura Peterson said. “We tackled cutting-edge legal issues, interacted with governmental agencies, and maintained client relations.  It is incredibly rewarding to know that our efforts made an impact, and I am proud to have been a part of the furtherance of justice."

In January 2009, President Barack Obama established an Inter-Agency Review Team (IART) to review the case of each Guantanamo detainee in order to determine whether he should be released.  After the Clinic submitted materials to the IART arguing that Dokhan had been wrongly accused and should be released but that he could not be returned to Syria, he was approved for transfer from Guantanamo.  The Government of Portugal then agreed to accept Dokhan, who was transferred there and released in late August.

“The students have achieved an important legal and human victory in this case,” said Clinical Professor Ranjana Natarajan, director of the National Security Clinic. “Not only have they defended the rule of law and fundamental human rights, but they have won our client’s freedom from prolonged detention without charge or trial.”

The Clinic legal team representing Dokhan included UT Law Clinical Professors Kristine A. Huskey and Natarajan and students Joe Conley, David Currie, Mario Franke, Bridgett Mayeux, Peenesh Shah, Suzanne Sivertsen, Ben Freedland, Michael Minea, Laura Peterson and Kelly Stephenson.

Related Link:

National Security Clinic:

LKirston Fortune, Assistant Dean for Communications, (512) 471.7330 or

Professor Ranjana Natarajan, director of the National Security Clinic, UT Law, 512-232-7222, or