US held Swedish terror suspect ‘for information’

Swedish citizen Mehdi Ghezali was kept at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp for two years to provide the US government with information of the ‘recruitment’ of foreign Muslims in Saudi Arabia, according to documents made public by whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.

Following the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York in September 2001, the US military was bombing targets in Afghanistan with the aim to force out Osama bin Laden.

Ghezali, who was in Afghanistan at the time, was arrested when trying to exit through Pakistan and turned over to US military.

He was later taken to a prison camp located on US military base on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba where he remained for two years without being formally charged with anything.

The documents made public by WikiLeaks and reviewed by the Aftonbladet and Expressen newspapers reveal that Ghezali was kept at the prison camp to “give general and specific information of the cultural, religious and ethnic recruitment of foreign nationals participating in the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia”.

The WikiLeaks papers also show that the US wanted Ghezali to be kept in Swedish prison upon his return to Sweden, according to Aftonbladet.

According to the documents, the US military considered the Swede of “medium-high intelligence value” and that he constituted a medium-high risk because he “posed a threat to the United States, its interests, and its allies”.

Ghezali was released from Guantanamo and arrived in Sweden in 2004.

A Pentagon statement at the time said that there were various reasons for Ghezali’s release, including the fact that he had no information of interest to American intelligence services and that he had not committed a crime that could be proven in a military court.

In 2009 Ghezali, along with two others, were again arrested in Pakistan.

After spending more than a month in the custody of Pakistani officials, Ghezali and the other Swedes were released.

No terror charges were ever filed, although Ghezali was cited for entering the country without a proper visa.

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Guantanamo: Paris judge asked to probe ‘torture’

Two French citizens, who are former inmates at the notorious Guantanamo Bay prison camp have asked a French judge to subpoena a former prison commander thay accuse of overseeing an alleged "systematic plan of torture and ill-treatment".

Guantanamo: Paris judge asked to probe 'torture'
Amnesty International protest in Paris calling for the closure of Guantanamo prison camp in 2012. Photo: Joel Saget/AFP

Two former Guantanamo Bay detainees asked a French judge on Wednesday to subpoena a former prison commander they accuse of overseeing their alleged torture.

Nizar Sassi and Mourad Benchellali, who were both held by American authorities first in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and then on the US naval base at Guantanamo in Cuba from late 2001 to 2004, are French citizens and now live in France.

French investigations into their case began after they filed a complaint in court, along with Khaled Ben Mustapha, another former Guantanamo inmate.

In an expert report submitted to the investigative judge of the high court of Paris, lawyers for Sassi and Benchellali accused retired major general Geoffrey Miller of "an authorized and systematic plan of torture and ill-treatment on persons deprived of their freedom without any charge and without the basic rights of any detainee."

Miller, who was commander of the prison from 2002 to 2004, "bears individual criminal responsibility for the war crimes and acts of torture inflicted on detainees in US custody at Guantanamo and in Iraq" at the Abu Ghraib prison while it was run by the American military, according to the report.

Just before Miller became commander of Guantanamo in late 2002, president George W. Bush's administration approved so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, including placing detainees in stress positions, stripping them, isolating them for extended periods of time and exposing them to extreme heat and cold.

Miller then implemented these methods.

And even though then-secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld withdrew permission for the most controversial of these interrogation techniques shortly thereafter in January 2003, "under MG Miller's command at Guantanamo, these techniques continued to be used in certain cases," the detainees' lawyers said

"These acts constitute torture and violate, at a minimum, the Geneva Conventions prohibition on coercive interrogations."

No response from US

Investigating magistrate Sophie Clement issued a formal request known as a letter rogatory to the US government in January 2012 for access to Guantanamo, relevant documents in the case and all persons who had contact with Sassi, Benchellali and ben Mustapha during their detention

But the men's lawyers said the United States had yet to reply.

"That high-level US officials alleged to bear responsible for torture continue to enjoy impunity domestically is a stain on the US system of justice," said Katherine Gallagher, senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights and vice president at the International Federation for Human Rights.

"We hope that this report will be of use in holding officials such as Miller accountable in France, a venue that is willing to investigate torture, and assist in providing some measure of justice to the torture survivors," she added in a statement after submitting the report to Clement.

William Bourdon, who represents the former detainees, stressed that Guantanamo remains open more than 12 years after it began receiving terror suspects, despite President Barack Obama's efforts to close it.

"Considering the close relationship that exists between France and the United States, the US should not block Geoffrey Miller's testimony; he has a lot to say," Bourdon added.