Egyptian authorities seize former Guantánamo prisoner Adel al Gazzar as he returns home from Slovakia

June 13, 2011

Ex-Guantánamo prisoner Adel al Gazzar’s hopes of returning to a ‘free’ Egypt were dashed today as he was arrested upon arrival on trumped-up charges.

An Egyptian religious missionary, Adel was resettled in Slovakia by the Obama Administration in January 2010 due to fears of persecution or imprisonment in Mubarak’s Egypt. 

Yet Adel became increasingly desperate to return home to look after his elderly mother, wife and children, whom he had not seen for 11 years. Following the Egyptian revolution, he felt confident enough in the ‘new’ regime to travel home. His confidence was misplaced; he was seized at Cairo airport at 3pm this afternoon; denied access to a lawyer and arrested.

Adel’s arrest was based on a typical remnant of the Mubarak regime: an in absentia military court sentence. While imprisoned in Guantánamo, Adel was tried, convicted, and sentenced in absentia in Egypt by a military court on charges that he was affiliated with the so-called Islamist group Al-Wa’ad. Adel had no legal representation at his trial, and his status as a Guantanamo prisoner—labelled the “worst of the worst” by the Bush administration—made him an easy target for the military court.

Today’s arrest is the latest in a series of disgraceful betrayals and injustices for Adel. He was originally sold for a bounty to the Americans from his hospital bed after being severely wounded by a US airstrike in Afghanistan in 2001. Realising their mistake, the US authorities cleared Adel for release, but he was forced to wait eight long years in Guantánamo Bay for a ‘safe’ country – Slovakia – to accept him. Upon arrival in Slovakia in January 2010, Adel was inexplicably imprisoned without charge for over six months, and was forced to undergo a painful hunger strike in order to secure his own release.

Reprieve condemns Adel’s arrest in the strongest terms; reminds the Egyptian government that Adel has been denied a fair trial; and calls on the Egyptian authorities to release their long-suffering compatriot immediately.

Clive Stafford Smith said: 

“The persecution of Adel al Gazzar makes a mockery of everything the revolution stands for. Where is the new dawn? Justice and the rule of law must return to Egypt. This is the third time Adel has been punished for completely unsubstantiated allegations. We hope the Egyptian military government will put an end to Adel’s decade-long ordeal.”

For more information please contact Katherine O’Shea at Reprieve’s Press Office katherine.oshea@reprieve.org.uk / 020 7427 1099/ 07931592674.

ENDS

Notes to editors Background Religious missionary Adel Fattough Ali al Gazzar was sold for a bounty after being severely wounded by a US airstrike in Afghanistan in 2001. Adel travelled to Pakistan in 2000 to undertake a religious mission to preach the Koran. After 9/11 and the advent of the war in Afghanistan, he learned of the many families that were displaced and distraught by the onset of war. Desiring to ease their suffering as best he could, Adel signed up with the Red Crescent and volunteered to go into Afghanistan to help the refugees. Within two hours of crossing the border to a refugee camp, the area was hit by a US airstrike. Adel’s leg was injured and he spent the next month convalescing in a Pakistani hospital before being sold to the US military for a bounty. In the midst of his recovery, he was transferred to a US prison in Kandahar, Afghanistan, where the routine included severe beatings, exposure to freezing temperatures, sleep deprivation for days on end, and the suspension of prisoners by their wrists. Adel endured this torture for eleven days before being transferred to Guantánamo Bay. He had received no medical attention during his time in Kandahar, and as a result, his leg was infected with gangrene so severe that it had to be amputated. Realizing that they had made a mistake, the US authorities cleared Adel for release. The US deemed it unsafe for Adel to return to Egypt, and he began the long wait for a third country to accept him. That wait lasted eight years until 2010, when Adel was finally released from custody at Guantánamo. However, his release from Guantánamo did not signal freedom. Rather, he was transferred to Slovakia where he was illegally imprisoned in an immigration detention centre for more than six months. Though he had done nothing wrong and, indeed, had been completely exonerated by the Americans, Adel was only able to secure his release after going on a hunger strike to protest against the manner in which he was being held. Adel wanted nothing more than to return to Egypt. He had not seen his family, including his wife and four children, for a decade. Efforts by his family to visit him in Slovakia were thwarted. And, recently, his mother suffered a cerebral haemorrhage which has left her paralysed and requiring full time care. His arrest today represents the third time he has being punished for vague, undefined crimes of which he is innocent. He spent eight years in Guantanamo without charge or trial, six months illegally detained in a Slovakian immigration detention centre upon his release from Guantanamo and is now being sent to prison without a fair trial for a third time—this time in his own country.

Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 27 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.

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