Video: Tunisian Freed from Guantánamo Calls for the Return of His Compatriots

To mark the 10th anniversary of the opening of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, both Al-Jazeera and the Guardian turned their attention to the fate of the five Tunisians still held in Guantánamo, who I wrote about almost exactly a year ago, after the unexpected fall of the dictator Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, and the beginning of the revolutionary movements in the Middle East.

At the time, seven Tunisians had left Guantánamo, to face a variety of fates. Two had been repatriated in 2007, although both had then been imprisoned following show trials, two others were in Italy, where they had been delivered from Guantánamo to face trials in November 2009, and three others had been resettled in early 2010 in three other countries — namely, Slovakia, Albania and Georgia.

Soon after the fall of Ben Ali, the interim Tunisian government announced an amnesty for all political prisoners, paving the way for the return of exiled members of the Islamist party Ennahdha, and also the release of 55-year old Abdallah Hajji (also identified as Abdullah bin Amor), the former Guantánamo prisoner who was still imprisoned after a show trial. It also transpired that the other returned and imprisoned ex-Guantánamo prisoner, Lotfi Lagha, had actually been freed under President Ben Ali in June 2010. Read the rest of this entry »

Tunisian Freed from Guantánamo and Sent Home from Italy Reflects on His Imprisonment

Back in January, in the first glow of the liberation of Tunisia from the iron grip of its long-term dictator Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, I wrote an article about the 12 Tunisian prisoners held at Guantánamo, and followed this up, in the first week in February, with another article examining how, in Tunisia, one former Guantánamo prisoner, Abdallah Hajji, had been freed from prison, where he had been serving a sentence after a show trial on his return from Guantánamo, while, in Italy, another former Guantánamo prisoner, Mohammed Tahir Riyadh Nasseri, who was sent to Italy from Guantánamo to face a trial on charges related to terrorism, was convicted of “criminal association with the aim of terrorism” and sentenced to six years in prison.

This was, I believe, a harsh sentence, as Nasseri will have spent 16 years in prison by the time his sentence comes to an end, and on February 7, just days after the Nasseri verdict, another judge delivered a completely different ruling in the case of Adel Ben Mabrouk, the other Tunisian sent to Italy from Guantánamo in November 2009 (also identified as Adel Ben Mabrouk Bin Hamida Boughanmi). Although he too was “convicted of criminal association with the aim of terrorism,” as the Associated Press described it, the judge gave him a two-year suspended sentence and ordered his immediate release from jail, “citing time served at Guantánamo,” even though he did not, at that point, have a passport or any kind of travel or identity papers.

As the AP explained, Ben Mabrouk’s defense lawyer Giuseppina Regina “said she and prosecutors made a joint appeal to the judge to take into consideration the eight years Mabrouk spent in Guantánamo in ‘inhumane conditions,’ plus a year and a half in Italian prison.” She stated, “Both the defense and the prosecution asked the judge to take into account his illegal and inhumane detention at Guantánamo,” and this was indeed the case. Prosecutor Armando Spataro said that he “appealed for a lighter sentence,” because Ben Mabrouk’s detention at Guantánamo was illegal under Italian law, and because “the crimes of which he was accused occurred more than a decade ago.” Read the rest of this entry »

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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 (The State of London).
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