Guantánamo Britons’ Spanish extradition request: an update

15.2.08

Omar Deghayes

Yesterday Omar Deghayes and Jamil El-Banna, two of the three Britons freed from Guantánamo in December, returned to Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London for the third time since their release for an update on the progress — or lack of it — in the Spanish government’s request for their extradition, based on long-discredited allegations that were summarized in previous articles here and here.

Jamil El-BannaAs I was unable to attend yesterday’s hearing — and no major media outlet has seen fit to report on it — I spoke to Jackie Chase from Brighton’s Save Omar campaign, who filled me in on the morning’s events.

Speaking to a busy courtroom and an overflowing public gallery, Edward Fitzgerald QC, representing Mr. Deghayes and Mr. El-Banna, submitted medical reports which analyzed in detail his clients’ precarious mental state. Although he made a point of sparing the court the details of their abuse in US custody, which had created their current problems, he explained that the reports revealed that both men were suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

He also pointed out that a particular source of stress and mental anguish for the men derived from the electronic tagging devices that they have been obliged to wear since their return to the UK, which, he said, were causing them anxiety, because they were giving them flashbacks to their ordeal in the US prisons in Afghanistan and Guantánamo, and specifically to their interrogations and the array of brutal techniques that were used on them during the run-up to their interrogations.

Mr. Fitzgerald then asked for the tags to be removed, a request to which the prosecution graciously acquiesced. In their place, Mr. Deghayes and Mr. El-Banna are required to allow police representatives to visit them during the curfew hours that were also imposed on their return to the UK — between 8 pm and 7 am — to check that they are actually at home.

As for the extradition request, the Crown Prosecution Service reported that there had been no response from the Spanish government since the last hearing in January. The judge set a deadline of April 13 for the Spanish to respond to the medical reports, and to issues previously raised by Mr. Fitzgerald and his colleagues; namely, that the Spanish authorities had failed to explain why they had filed the extradition request on the men’s return, when they had not pursued it vigorously during their long imprisonment in US custody; and that they had also failed to explain why they wished to pursue the case when both the British and American governments had concluded that there was no case against either man.

In open discussions between the judge and the various lawyers, the prospect was raised that the Spanish government might drop its extradition request in the near future. If they respond by April 13, however, the formal extradition hearing will take place on May 15.

It is to be hoped that the Spanish will indeed drop their request for the return of two innocent men who are struggling to rebuild their lives. As the case of Farid Hilali revealed last week, the European Arrest Warrant, introduced to facilitate extradition proceedings between EU member states, is proving itself sorely lacking in any mechanism whatsoever to prevent extraditions when the country making the request is acting on “evidence” that fails to stand up to impartial scrutiny. See here, here and here for more on Mr. Hilali’s story.

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.

As published on Indymedia.

For the conclusion of the extradition story, see here.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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