Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Ex-Guantanamo prisoner held in Egypt

After a decade in detention, Adel al-Gazzar arrested on his return home on what his lawyers call "trumped-up charges".
Adel al-Gazzar spent eight years at Guantanamo Bay after it was deemed unsafe for him to return to Egypt [Reuters]

Egyptian police have arrested a man who returned home after being jailed for years at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay.

Adel al-Gazzar told reporters on Monday that the Americans had not sent him back to Egypt for fear that he would be tortured in his homeland.

He was arrested upon arrival in Egypt on what his lawyers describe as "trumped-up charges".

Katie Taylor, who works for Reprieve, a legal charity based in London that represents prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, told Al Jazeera that al-Gazzar suffered a "decade-long ordeal of torture and detention without trial".

"He arrived home to Egypt, only to face further discredited, trumped-up charges."

Al-Gazzar was sentenced in absentia in Egypt in 2001 to three years in prison for affiliation with a group called Al-Wa'ad.

'Political prisoner'

Ahmed Ghappour, al-Gazzar's lawyer in the US, said that nearly half of the defendants present at the trial were found innocent.

"Such cases were often used as a tool by the Mubarak regime to silence dissent," Ghappour said.

He added that before being arrested in Egypt, Al-Gazzar was "allowed to see his wife and four children for about an hour". This was the first time he had seen them in over ten years.

Katherine O'Shea, press officer for Reprieve, told Al Jazeera that Al-Gazzar was taken to "the Military Prosecution to sign his sentence, and was then transferred to the Criminal Prison of Appeals in Cairo".

"This is unusual as political prisoners are usually sent to the Tora prison, which has better conditions. The Criminal Prison of Appeals is overcrowded," O'Shea said.

She said that he on arrival at the prison, the security services were concerned about the conditions and decided to transfer him to be detained in the airport.

"Adel has been told that tomorrow he will be taken to the prison authority, who will determine which prison he will be sent to serve his sentence."

Not safe to return

Al-Gazzar says he went to Pakistan in 2000 to preach Islam, and signed up with the Red Crescent to go into Afghanistan to help refugees. Within two hours of crossing the border to a refugee camp, the area was hit by a US airstrike.

His leg was injured in the airstrike and he was treated in a Pakistani hospital. He says he was sold to the US military for a bounty and transferred to a US prison in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Al-Gazzar was reportedly tortured for eleven days before being transferred to Guantanamo Bay. He had received no medical attention during his time in Kandahar, and as a result, his leg had to be amputated.

Cleared for release by US authorities, it was deemed unsafe for him to return to Egypt and he had to wait eight years for a third country to accept him.

Released from Guantanamo in 2010, he was transferred to Slovakia where he was imprisoned in an immigration detention centre for more than six months.

He was released after going on a hunger strike to protest against the manner in which he was being held.

Katie Taylor said that Reprieve was calling for Al-Gazzar to be allowed "to rejoin his beloved family and to build a new life in the new Egypt".

"What kind of ‘Arab Spring’ is it when the Egyptian military compounds the mistakes of America's 'War of Terror'?"

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