Guantánamo Britons resist Spanish extradition order


On Wednesday January 9, in a crowded court room at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, a short hearing took place as the next step in the request for the extradition of two former Guantánamo detainees, Jamil El-Banna and Omar Deghayes, which, with astonishing insensitivity, was submitted by the Spanish government on the men’s return from Guantánamo last month after more than five years in US custody.

The weakness of the Spanish case –- alleging that both Mr. El-Banna and Mr. Deghayes were members of an al-Qaeda cell in Madrid, which provided recruits for militant training camps in Afghanistan and Indonesia –- was discussed at length in a previous article.

In this hearing, as the men returned to court after three weeks with their families, their lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald, QC, launched a withering attack on the Spanish government, telling the court, “The Spanish authorities are deeply implicated in the ordeal of the last five years. They acquiesced to, and facilitated, their interrogation at Guantánamo and indeed participated in that interrogation process. They took no steps or adequate steps to say, ‘we want them for trial in Spain.’ They left them to be interrogated in Guantánamo, and now –- after they have been exonerated by US authorities, after English police have said they don’t wish to bring any charges –- the Spanish authorities are saying, ‘we want to question them on the self-same charges.’” He added that it would be an “obvious oppression” to extradite them now “for the same allegations that have been fully investigated in Guantánamo.”

The judge, Timothy Workman, who had already shown compassion to the men before Christmas, when he granted them bail, and noted that prosecution concerns about doing so were “outweighed by the detailed review carried out in the US,” extended their bail, and ordered them to return for a more lengthy hearing on February 14.

Outside the court, as Mr. El-Banna and Mr. Deghayes mingled with well-wishers, there was a palpable optimism on the part of the lawyers, a feeling, perhaps, that the Spanish can be persuaded to drop their ludicrous claims before they embarrass themselves.

Both Mr. El-Banna and Mr. Deghayes seemed well, although this was clearly a day for a show, and it was impossible to discern the fears and anxieties that must be troubling both men after their long imprisonment in horrendous conditions.

With his hair and beard trimmed since his court appearance in December, when, with his long grey hair, he appeared, perhaps aptly, to be a recently rescued castaway, Mr. El-Banna smiled tentatively, taking his supporters by the hand and thanking them warmly.

Jamil El-Banna

Jamil El-Banna. Photo © Dylan Martinez/Reuters.

Mr. Deghayes, too, seemed in good spirits. Engaged and talkative, he was accompanied by a group of supporters from the Save Omar campaign, who had worked assiduously for his release, and had travelled from his home town of Brighton to show their solidarity. His mother, whose distress was apparent in photographs taken before his release, was smiling and glancing over at him, clearly still elated at her beloved son’s return.

Omar Deghayes

Omar Deghayes. Photo © Dylan Martinez/Reuters.

For more on the stories of the British residents, see my book 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 rest of the extradition story, see here and here.

One Response

  1. True Blue Liberal » Guantánamo Britons Resist Spanish Extradition Order says...

    […] Read more Extradition Order […]

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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 and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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