Guantánamo two: Harold Pinter calls on Spanish to drop extradition request for Jamil El-Banna and Omar Deghayes

9.1.08

On Wednesday January 9, Jamil El-Banna and Omar Deghayes, two of the three British residents released from Guantánamo before Christmas, will face a brief hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in connection with the request, filed by the Spanish government on their return to the UK, for their extradition in connection with long-discredited terror charges. Sources close to the men have indicated that this is just a preliminary hearing and that there will be a full hearing in a few months’ time, with a final decision following up to six months later.

Detainees at Guantanamo

Detainees in Guantánamo.

Both men have spent the last few weeks with their families, attempting to get used to their freedom after long years without charge or trial in Guantánamo, where they were both treated horrendously, and although Timothy Workman, the British judge who granted them bail before Christmas, is to be commended for allowing them this brief period of readjustment in the comfort of their homes, the Spanish government’s groundless request for their extradition remains extraordinarily insensitive.

The following letter, addressing their plight and asking the Spanish government to drop its claim, was written by Harold Pinter, Baroness Kennedy, QC, Sir Geoffrey Bindman and Victoria Brittain, and appears in the Times.

Guantánamo two: There can’t be any justification for subjecting these men to further legal processes

Sir, The belief of the UK residents Jamil El-Banna and Omar Deghayes that they had at last been restored to freedom in Britain after their five-year ordeal in Guantánamo Bay prison camp was cruelly disappointed when, on their arrival before Christmas, they were arrested at the behest of the Spanish Government demanding their extradition to face terrorism charges.

Both the US and British authorities have long been aware of the stale and flimsy evidence on which Spain relies, and both governments have made it clear that they do not regard the release of the men as posing any security threat. Were it otherwise their release would have been inconceivable.

Under the European Extradition Convention the British authorities have little choice but to act on a request from another European state and bring the suspect before the court. Fortunately, when the men were taken to Horseferry Road Magistrates Court, the district judge, Timothy Workman, had the wisdom and compassion to grant them bail pending a full hearing in the new year. They are in court today.

However weak these cases may be, and whatever may be the outcome of Spain’s application when it is fully heard, there can be no justification for subjecting the two men to the further ordeal of a prolonged and uncertain legal process after all they have gone through. We call on the Spanish Government to withdraw its ill-considered persecution of these men. They have suffered enough.

Harold Pinter
Baroness Kennedy, QC
Sir Geoffrey Bindman
Victoria Brittain

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed, and see here for my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.

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