Freed ex-Guantanamo detainee hospitalised in France

17th May 2009, Comments 0 comments

Algerian detainee Lakhdar Boumediene, held for seven years at Guantanamo Bay prison camp, was in a French military hospital Saturday after being released from the US jail, military sources said.

PARIS - Algerian detainee Lakhdar Boumediene, held for seven years at Guantanamo Bay prison camp, was in a French military hospital Saturday after being released from the US jail, military sources said.

The sources said Boumediene, 42, who was weakened by his years of imprisonment, including two of which he spent on hunger strike, had been taken to the Percy hospital at Clamart, near Paris.

The former terror suspect had arrived late Friday at Evreux air force base west of the French capital aboard a US military plane, the sources said.

Foreign ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier in a statement confirmed that Boumediene had arrived in France.

"Henceforth a free man, we hope that Lakhdar Boumediene can regain a normal life. The government has put in place a plan for his medical supervision if his state of health warrants it," he said.

France became the first European Union country to take in a former Guantanamo inmate with neither residency nor citizenship.

Paris confirmed on 6 May that it had agreed to accept Boumediene, who was cleared of any wrongdoing in November.

American lawyer Robert Kirsch said Boumediene would undergo several days of medical tests before being placed in an apartment offered to him by the French state as he goes about adjusting to daily life.

The French government will also provide a living allowance plus training and other help as he looks to carve out a normal working life, a source close to the matter added.

He will be issued with a special visa which limits where he can travel within the passport-free European Schengen area.

Kirsch said Boumediene's wife, Abassa Bouadjimi, and their two daughters, Radjaa, 13, and Rahma, eight, had recently arrived from Algeria to join him.

His sister-in-law, Louiza Baghdadi, who lives in Nice, heaped praise on France for taking Boumediene in.

"France has made an unimaginable gesture. We, the family, his parents in Algeria, Algeria itself, acknowledge the act," she told AFP, adding that she would give France the Nobel prize if she could.

Boumediene, who was detained in late 2001 when he was living in Bosnia, had been on hunger strike since December 2006 and was force-fed two times a day through a nose-drip.

Kirsch said he ate with his client late Wednesday, adding that Boumediene not only broke his self-imposed fast but even ate beyond the recommended medical intake to celebrate with fellow inmates.

"He spent seven-and-a-half years with someone checking him every 10 minutes," Kirsch said, adding that his client was "under the control of other people who thought he was dangerous.

"He has to be able to walk again, to decide when to eat, when to take a shower."

"His smile (on Thursday) was so very genuine and so happy."

Kirsch thanked the French government, saying its "integrity" throughout the processing of the case was "remarkable".

"Most of them were just at the wrong place at the wrong time, they are just innocent men," he added of the remaining Guantanamo detainees.

Matthew Olsen, the executive director of the US government's interagency Guantanamo Review Task Force said in a statement in Washington that "the assistance of our international allies is critical to the closure of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay," and expressed gratitude to France.

Chevallier said: "France has consistently called for the closure of the Guantanamo detention centre and we have saluted President (Barack) Obama's decision" to do so soon after taking office.

He stressed that links with the reception country were a key part of any European state's decision to accept released detainees, with members of Boumediene's family already resident in France.

Boumediene was among six Guantanamo inmates arrested in Bosnia in 2001 and initially charged with plotting to attack the US embassy in Sarajevo.

Five of the six were cleared for release in November by a US judge who ruled they had been illegally detained.

Three of the men, who held dual Algerian-Bosnian nationalities, were transferred to their adopted homeland Bosnia in December -- the first Guantanamo inmates released by the administration of then president George W. Bush under a judge's orders.

Boumediene's departure leaves 240 detainees in the Cuban island prison whose futures have still to be resolved.

AFP / Expatica

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