Ex-Guantanamo four 'under investigation' in France

1st August 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Aug 1 (AFP) - Four French nationals repatriated from the US base in Guantanamo Bay were held in custody Sunday after being formally placed under judicial investigation by anti-terrorism judges in Paris for alleged links with terror groups.

PARIS, Aug 1 (AFP) - Four French nationals repatriated from the US base in Guantanamo Bay were held in custody Sunday after being formally placed under judicial investigation by anti-terrorism judges in Paris for alleged links with terror groups.

The measure is a first step toward possible criminal charges against the men, who arrived back in France on Tuesday following lengthy negotiations between Paris and Washington.

All four appeared before anti-terrorism judges Jean-Louis Bruguiere and Jean-Francois Ricard, who are France's leading anti-terrorism investigators.

Nizar Sassi, 25, and Brahim Yadel, 33, were placed under investigation for suspected "links to a criminal group related to a terrorist enterprise", while Mourad Benchellali, 23, and Imad Achab Kanouni, 27, were placed under investigation for alleged links to terror groups.

Benchellali and Sassi were also questioned about alleged use of a fake passport which allowed them to reach Afghanistan.

The documents were said to have been provided by the brother of Benchellali, who is also under investigation in another case of an alleged terrorist plot.

A different judge ordered all four be held in custody pending the investigation.

Their lawyers said they would appeal, and a decision was expected by a Paris appeals court within three days.

Prosecutors called for the men to be kept in detention because of the likelihood they will eventually face serious charges of conspiracy to commit terrorist acts. Bruguiere and Ricard have been investigating the case of the four, all of whom spent several months in Afghanistan, since 2002.

According to a source familiar with the case, the judges were looking to corroborate details about the time the four spent in Afghanistan, where they were arrested by US forces on the border with Pakistan in December 2001.

Benchellali and Sassi spent six months in Afghanistan while Yadel and Kanouni were there for 18 months.

The men were to be questioned about safe houses in Kabul and Pakistan, the Tora-Bora caves on the Pakistan frontier and Al-Qaeda training camps, a legal source said.

They were present at training camps during the September 11 attacks on the United States and all four fled the camps under the threat of US bomb attacks and ahead of the arrival of troops from the Northern Alliance that were fighting Afghanistan's Taliban regime.

"The detention has allowed us to fill in a case about which so far there have been only suspicions," said a spokesman for the prosecutors.

The case against the men does not include any documents drawn up by the US authorities during their detention in Guantanamo.

Lawyers for two of the four prisoners said their clients claimed they had been subjected to abusive treatment at Guantanamo Bay similar to that meted out to prisoners at Abu Ghraib jail in Baghdad.

The lawyers said Benchellali and Sassi complained of having been questioned at the point of pump-action shotguns and threatened with dogs.

Among the complaints, said lawyer Jacques Debray, was that the Muslim men "had been placed in the presence of nude women designed to shock them."

He said the men told him that "prisoners from the Middle East and particularly from Saudi Arabia were forced to watch pornographic movies and be interrogated by half-naked women."

Debray said earlier his clients seemed well physically, although he was asking for them to be given a psychiatric examination.

"They have not complained of any pain, but the question really is what are the psychological repercussions of the treatment they endured in their years of detention."

The other two detainees, Yadel and Kanouni, were represented by court-appointed defence lawyers.

Kanouni could be investigated over existing cases, including a suspected plot to attack a Christmas market in the eastern French city of Strasbourg in December 2000, sources said.

Three other French detainees remain among the estimated 600 inmates at the US detention facility.

© AFP

 

Subject: French news

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