Posted by: Lister | April 30, 2007

Ahmed Errachidi

Back in March I blogged about Errachidi and Ahmed Belbacha, who had been cleared by the Pentagon and “approved to leave Guantanamo.” Their homes are in Britain. But it turns out that our government did not do the paper-work — and now Errachidi (having been released) is reported missing after his deportation to Morocco.

Ahmed Errachidi’s lawyers were told of his release yesterday [Friday] but US sources said he arrived in Morocco on Tuesday.

Neither his legal team nor his family have been able to make contact with him and they fear that he has been taken to a secret detention centre.

Mr Errachidi, 40, who suffers from bipolar disorder, was held for five years in the US military internment camp on the basis of a false claim by an unidentified informant that he received military training at a terrorist camp in Afghanistan in July 2001. But The Times has seen payslips, bank documents and witness statements that prove that Mr Errachidi was working at the five-star Westbury Hotel in Mayfair that month and sending money to his relatives in Morocco.

It was after that evidence was produced to the US authorities by his British lawyers that they agreed, two months ago, to release him from Camp Delta.

Diplomatic negotiations about his release began but the Foreign and Commonwealth Office declined to participate because, although he had lived in Britain since 1984, Mr Errachidi was not a British citizen.

[…]
— 380 detainees are still at Guantanamo Bay
— 395 detainees have been released since 2002 and returned to countries including Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Bahrain, Belgium, Britain, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uganda and Yemen
— Seven Britons were freed in 2004 and 2005; eight others are still there .

[ETA] 82 Inmates Cleared but Still Held at Guantanamo

More than a fifth of the approximately 385 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been cleared for release but may have to wait months or years for their freedom because U.S. officials are finding it increasingly difficult to line up places to send them, according to Bush administration officials and defense lawyers.

Since February, the Pentagon has notified about 85 inmates or their attorneys that they are eligible to leave after being cleared by military review panels. But only a handful have gone home, including a Moroccan and an Afghan who were released Tuesday. Eighty-two remain at Guantanamo and face indefinite waits as U.S. officials struggle to figure out when and where to deport them, and under what conditions.

[…] In many cases, the prisoners’ countries do not want them back. Yemen, for instance, has balked at accepting some of the 106 Yemeni nationals at Guantanamo by challenging the legality of their citizenship.

Another major obstacle: U.S. laws that prevent the deportation of people to countries where they could face torture or other human rights abuses, as in the case of 17 Chinese Muslim separatists who have been cleared for release but fear they could be executed for political reasons if returned to China.

[…] A case in point is Ahmed Belbacha, 37, an Algerian who worked as a hotel waiter in Britain but has been locked up at Guantanamo for five years. The Pentagon has alleged that Belbacha met al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden twice and received weapons training in Afghanistan. His attorneys dispute the charges and say he was rounded up with other innocents in Pakistan in early 2002.

On Feb. 22, without explanation, the Pentagon notified Belbacha’s lawyers in London that he had been approved to leave Guantanamo. Despite entreaties from the State Department, however, the British government has refused to accept Belbacha and five other immigrants who had lived in the country, because they lack British citizenship.

[…] “The holdup is a mystery to me, frankly,” said Katznelson, senior counsel for Reprieve, a British legal defense fund. “If the U.S. has cleared these people and they want to go back, I don’t understand why they can’t just put them on a plane.”

Other prisoner advocates said the Bush administration has made its task more difficult by exaggerating the threat posed by most Guantanamo inmates — officials repeatedly called them “the worst of the worst” — and refusing to acknowledge mistaken detentions.

[…] Defense lawyers for some of the 82 cleared prisoners whose release is pending said Hicks received a better deal than did their clients who were not charged with any offenses. “One of the cruel ironies is that in Guantanamo, you’ve got to plead guilty to be released,” said Wizner, the ACLU attorney. “It’s the only way out of there.”

[…] “It often takes us months and months, or even years, to negotiate the human rights assurances that we are comfortable with before we will transfer someone to another country,” said Bellinger, the State Department’s legal adviser.

Human rights groups have criticized the written assurances as unreliable. In March, the New York-based group Human Rights Watch issued a report on the fate of seven Russians who were released from Guantanamo three years ago, asserting that three of the men have been tortured since their return.

Via: Progressive Muslima News.

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Responses

  1. I’ve sent a letter to my MP with the above links and a link to this blog.

  2. Errachidi may have to face trial in July.

    Ahmed Errachidi was cleared by the US of any wrongdoing, but has now been accused by Moroccan authorities of “membership of an unauthorised group”.

    […] Mr Stafford Smith, who is legal director of Reprieve, said: “This is a horrifying turn of events.

    “Ahmed has suffered five unjustified years of imprisonment in Guantanamo’s inhuman conditions, but has now been officially cleared by the Americans, confirming that he poses no security threat.

    “There are absolutely no grounds for his arrest in Morocco.

    “This is purely a sop to the US – part of some silent agreement. Every person returned to Morocco from Guantanamo has faced trial for something.”

    Mr Stafford Smith is calling for the British government to intervene on his client’s behalf.

    A spokesman for the Foreign Office said as far as it was aware Mr Errachidi was a free man.

    “He was brought up on terrorism charges by the Moroccan authorities. They put him in court and he was later released,” he said.

  3. A former guard at Guantanamo has converted to Islam. Apparently, conversations with Errachidi was part of what inspired him. Cage Prisoners interviewed him. Not entirely likeable, to put it mildly!:

    What happened on September 11th has come to me, as with those who’ve known me a long time, has caused me to have a nickname as a ‘sociopath’, due to the fact I didn’t care. September 11th happened and it didn’t phase me- in fact I thought it was about time America got one- it should’ve happened a long time ago- we’re not untouchable, we’re not some magical country- we’re some high-horse-riding, our s*** don’t stink, unlearned individuals.

    His talks with Errachidi:

    […] Detainee 590; ‘the General’, as we called him. There were rumors for most of the detainees as to how they received the nick names they had. We’d talk for hours and hours- we’d talk about books, we’d talk about music, we’d talk about philosophy, we would talk about religion…More often than not when I got the night shift I would generally stay up and talk with him throughout the night- we’d talk about the history of this war, what’s been going on, what’s taking place in the Middle East for the last two hundred, three hundred, four hundred years. And when you boil it down, fortunately he didn’t have anything bad to say about the US other than its most recent history.

    […] 590 stayed up one night and- we’d been talking about Islam for quite a while- I’d been studying Islam for quite a while at this point, and one night he stayed up with me and he transliterated how to say in English the declaration of faith, and watched me as I said it, and whatnot. So I would say the first time I declared my faith in Islam was probably in Guantanamo- was probably that night, with him.


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