Ex-Guantánamo prisoner arrested in Egypt over unlawful Mubarak-era ‘conviction’ faces further abuses

July 21, 2011

A former Red Crescent volunteer who was held in Guantánamo Bay for eight years and subsequently arrested on returning home to Egypt on the basis of an in absentia sentence he received under the Mubarak regime is calling for a retrial.

Adel Al Gazzar – who was also subjected by the US to torture and medical neglect so severe it resulted in the amputation of a leg – was arrested at Cairo Airport on 13 June on his return from Slovakia, where he had been living since his release from Guantánamo.

The arrest was made on the basis of an in absentia sentence Adel received from the Mubarak regime in 2002, while he was being held in Guantánamo and unaware that the trial was even taking place. Now his right to appeal against the old sentence is being effectively blocked by the current military prosecutor.

Last week, Adel formally requested that his constitutional right to a fair trial before a civilian court be restored. He submitted a memorandum of appeal to the military court, highlighting the myriad ways in which his in absentia sentence violated Egyptian law and the Egyptian consititution. In addition to his lack of legal representation, the ‘evidence’ used against him consisted solely of false statements which were tortured out of other prisoners by the Egyptian intelligence services. In fact, many of his co-defendants—charged with the same crime as Adel—were found innocent because such statements of ‘evidence’ were found to have no factual basis.

In response to Adel’s appeal, the caretaker military government appears to be following the same path as the overthrown Mubarak regime by using extralegal and arbitrary measures to justify his detention. In an unheard-of procedure, the Military Prosecution refused to accept Adel’s memorandum of appeal on the basis that it did not include a Criminal Status Report. Despite the fact that the submission of such a report is not required by law, Adel compiled the report and attempted to resubmit the memorandum of appeal. This was rejected a second time on the basis that the Criminal Status Report was submitted by Adel rather than through the Prison Authority.

The Military Prosecution’s actions are of grave concern as they may represent an attempt to run out the clock on Adel’s appeal. Thirty-three days of the 60-day window for appeal have already passed.

Reprieve Investigator, Ghada Eldemellawy, said: “It is ridiculous that anyone would be held on charges as flimsy as those against Adel. It is an even greater travesty that it should happen to someone who has already lost a decade of his life to baseless charges. Egypt should do what America didn’t: restore his right to a fair trial and release him.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. For further information please contact Katherine O’Shea or Donald Campbell at Reprieve’s Press Office: donald.campbell@reprieve.org.uk / +44 (0) 20 7427 1082katherine.oshea@reprieve.org.uk +44 (0) 20 7427 1099 / (0) 7931 592 674.

2. Adel Al Gazzar was injured in a US airstrike while volunteering with the Red Crescent in Afghanistan, and subsequently sold from his hospital bed in Pakistan to American security agents for a bounty; he was then brutally tortured in Kandahar, subjected to medical neglect so severe it resulted in the amputation of his leg, detained in Guantanamo Bay for eight years without charge or trial, and detained in a Slovakian immigration detention centre upon his release from Guantanamo—again without charge or reason. He returned to Egypt to be reunited with his family, hoping that Egypt’s revolution would have led to a transformation in the Mubarak-era judicial process, but was arrested on arrival at the airport and has been imprisoned ever since. Further information on Adel can be found here: http://www.reprieve.org.uk/cases/adelalgazzar