Press Release

Pro Bono Work Leads to New Chance at Life for Guantanamo Detainee

December 12, 2014

Jerry Cohen, a partner at Burns & Levinson, is one of a team of lawyers who helped secure the release of longtime Guantanamo Bay detainee Mohammed Abdullah Taha Mattan earlier this month. Despite never being charged with a crime and being cleared for transfer three times, most recently in January 2010, Mattan, now 35, spent 12 years at Guantanamo. He was one of six Guantanamo detainees who were released on December 7 in Uruguay. Gordon Woodward of Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP, Buz Eisenberg of Weinberg & Garber, P.C., Prof. Lauren Carasik of Western New England University School of Law and Amin Zacharia, a translator from Schnader, worked with Cohen to secure Mattan’s release. Cohen and Eisenberg have represented other Guantanamo detainees since 2004, all of whom are now home in their native countries. “Over the years, our main focus was to humanize the detainees and jailers at all levels of government, work with the talented lawyers and judges at the U.S. Justice Department, and endure the long periods of time, disappointments and anxieties between every small accomplishment,” said Cohen. “Along the way we became criminal defense lawyers, military lawyers and even diplomats, calling on foreign embassies and international organizations for refuge and other help for our clients.” “Thankfully, the outcome for Mohammed is he now has safe haven and freedom in Uruguay and a chance for a better future,” Cohen added. “Jerry’s dedication to pro bono work and this case in particular deserve to be recognized,” said David Rosenblatt, managing partner of Burns & Levinson. “This is a great example of pro bono work making a direct and immediate impact on someone’s life. It’s something that we can all be proud of.” Cohen and Eisenberg, who are working to help Mattan transition into his new life outside of Guantanamo, plan to travel to Uruguay in early 2015. They continue to offer support to other detainee teams. As of this spring, 130 men remained imprisoned at Guantanamo, half of whom have been cleared for transfer for several years. Cohen is a former president of the Massachusetts Bar Foundation, has served on the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers and the American Civil Liberties Union Board, and is a member of the Ethics Committee at Burns & Levinson. He is a longtime advocate for pro bono work and encourages other lawyers and firms to support and volunteer for legal service organizations in Massachusetts.

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