After eight years in Guantánamo, Abdul Aziz Naji was forcibly repatriated to Algeria in 2010. Based on discredited claims and no evidence, he was sentenced to three years imprisonment by an Algerian Court in January 2012. Aziz is represented in the US by Ellen Lubell and Doris Tennant at Tennant Lubell LLC and Reprieve assists him as a part of our “Life after Guantánamo” project.
After serving in the Algerian military, Aziz travelled to Mecca on pilgrimage. In early 2001, while working for a reputable Pakistani charity providing humanitarian assistance to Muslims and Christians in Kashmir, he stepped on a landmine, resulting in the loss of his lower right leg. He was treated at a hospital for several months. After having been rehabilitated and fit with a prosthetic leg, Aziz was directed by acquaintances to an Algerian in Peshawar to help find a wife. When visiting this man in May 2002, he was arrested by Pakistani police during the raid of his host’s house. The reason for the arrest was never explained, and Pakistani authorities told Aziz he would be released. Instead, he was handed over to US forces, held in Peshawar and at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, before being sent to Guantánamo Bay.
Accused of being a member of a foreign extremist group, Aziz was held in Guantánamo from 2002 until July 2010. He was denied any opportunity to prove his innocence. After eight years of detention he was forcibly transported back to Algeria, despite the fact that the US State Department’s own 2010 report on Algeria expressed serious concern over the country’s “poor prison conditions, abuse of prisoners, and lack of judicial independence.”
As feared, in January 2012 the Algerian Supreme Court sentenced him to three years of prison after a brief “trial”, accusing him of the same crimes the US authorities had already cleared him of. No evidence was presented at the trial - the out-dated and discredited allegations alone were enough to get him convicted. He is currently being held at the notorious Berouaguia prison in Medea.
Aziz has been suffering severe complications in regards to amputation. His health has deteriorated further by a hunger strike he undertook. He explained his decision to go on hunger strike , through his Algerian lawyer Hassiba Boumerdassi, as “the only way that he had to protest his unjust treatment—first by the US authorities in Guantánamo and now in his own country.” He has been denied medical adequate assistance and was imprisoned before a scheduled surgery had taken place.
Following his January 2012 conviction, Aziz’s Algerian lawyer filed an appeal of his sentence and requested that he be released on bail pending retrial. Despite the fact that Algerian law governing bail does not mention release on medical grounds, the judge rejected his request on the basis that he has not proven himself unable to withstand imprisonment because of his condition. His lawyer will resubmit a bail request, arguing that the rejection had no basis in the law.
After over a decade of unlawful detention, Aziz is in desperate need of assistance. Reprieve’s “Life after Guantánamo”-team and all other supporters – including his US lawyers Ellen Lubell and Doris Tennant at Tennant Lubell LLC, and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) - are urging the Algerian government to stop this injustice and overturn Aziz’s groundless conviction. The US should also face its direct responsibility, and take care not to repeat its mistakes by ensuring that its baseless accusations are not treated as facts overseas.