Former Italian resident Saleh Sassi was arrested in Afghanistan and handed to the US military in 2001. A short time later he was transferred to Guantanamo Bay. On February 23, 2010, he was released to Albania.
Saleh was born in Menzel, Tunisia, in June 1973; like many young Tunisian men, he opted to move to Italy in the hopes of finding work and a better life. He moved in 1998, settling in Turin.
Things were easier for Saleh in Europe. Trained as a welder and skilled laborer, Saleh lent his hand to complicated construction projects. He lived and worked in Italy until 2001, and had an official residency card or permesso di soggiorno.
In July 2001, Saleh left Italy during his summer holidays and ultimately traveled to Afghanistan, well before the Americans entered the conflict there. He intended to return to Europe after a time, but when the war started, he was picked up and handed to the US military. A short time later, he was taken to Guantánamo Bay.
While held by the US military, Saleh has often been kept in brutal conditions. The vast majority of his imprisonment has been spent in isolation, which has caused him to suffer clinical depression; he has described his situation as a long and unending nightmare.
While prevented from interacting with other prisoners, Saleh had been visited in Guantánamo by several teams of foreign interrogators—including the Italians and the Tunisians. In late 2002, Tunisian agents came to Guantánamo and left no doubt about what awaited ex-Guantánamo inmates back in Tunisia: “water torture in the barrel” and other horrors.
The Tunisian security services made as good as their word in June 2007, when two Tunisians were transferred to their custody from Guantánamo Bay. Both men were abused. One reported that he was drugged, beaten, denied food and water, sleep deprived and threatened with the rape of his wife and daughters unless he signed a false confession.
As such, Saleh faced similar persecution. Due to the stamp of Guantanamo, the Tunisians would have, in all likelihood, not hesitate to torture him if he had been forcibly returned.
The US military has, by its own rules, determined that Saleh does not pose a threat to the US or its allies and that he has no intelligence to provide. Thankfully, Albania stepped up and offered Saleh a safe home where he has now started to rebuild his life.