02 May 2012

Innocent ex-Guantánamo detainee Abdul Aziz Naji arbitrarily denied bail by Algeria


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An Algerian judge this week arbitrarily denied bail to a former Guantánamo detainee, despite his meeting all of the bail requirements set out in the country’s penal procedures code.

Abdul Aziz Naji was cleared by the US after being detained at Guantánamo for eight years, and then forcibly returned to Algeria – where, as he had feared, he was convicted and imprisoned on unsubstantiated charges.
 
Although Mr Naji’s recent bail request was made on the basis that he met all of the requirements set out in the Algerian Penal Procedures Code, the judge rejected it on the grounds that he had not proven that he is unable to withstand imprisonment because of his medical condition. This refusal has no legal basis, as the Algerian law governing bail makes no mention of release on medical grounds.
 
In January this year, Mr Naji was sentenced to three years on unsubstantiated allegations of membership in an extremist group overseas. The charges were derived from the now-discredited accusations that the US administration made against him in 2002.
 
During his trial, the prosecutor presented no evidence of Mr. Naji’s guilt—rather the judge simply questioned him and produced a guilty verdict. His lawyer, Hassiba Boumerdassi, filed an appeal of his sentence and requested that he be released on bail pending retrial. She will resubmit the bail request arguing that the rejection had no basis in the law.
 
Mr. Naji, an amputee who is now suffering badly from complications as a result of his injury, is being held in the notorious Berouaguia Prison in Medea. He has not had access to adequate medical treatment while in prison and his family is deeply concerned about his rapidly deteriorating health.
 
Reprieve’s Life After Guantánamo Caseworker, Katie Taylor said: "The worst nightmares of Aziz and his family have been realised—Algeria is persisting in its unlawful treatment of him. It is appalling that he should be perpetually punished for the same discredited allegation which the US cleared him of years ago.” 

ENDS
 
Notes to editors:
 
1. For further information please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office on +44 (0) 20 7427 1082 / (0) 7791 755 415 or go to http://www.reprieve.org.uk/cases/abdulaziznaji/.
 
2. Abdul Aziz Naji is represented in the US by Ellen Lubell and Doris Tennant at Tennant Lubell LLC. The following profile was prepared by his counsel and the Center for Constitutional Rights:

Mr. Naji was born in Batna, Algeria in 1975. After sixth grade, he began work in his father’s blacksmith shop and later completed his required military service in the Algerian Army. After his service, Mr. Naji, like many young Muslims, travelled to Mecca on pilgrimage and then, during early 2001, worked briefly with a reputable Pakistani charity, providing humanitarian assistance to needy Muslims and Christians in Kashmir. Offering to volunteer his services was important to his religious beliefs. While carrying food and clothing to poor villages one night with a group of other volunteers, Mr. Naji stepped on a landmine (one of many unexploded ordnance that lace the region) and sustained a serious injury, resulting in the loss of his lower right leg. He was taken to a hospital in Lahore, Pakistan where he was treated for several months and fit with a prosthetic leg. He spent many months after that in rehabilitation, living with a few generous families in the city who offered to board him.
 
An amputee with few resources and in need of the most basic assistance, Mr. Naji was directed by acquaintances to an Algerian in Peshawar to help find a wife. While visiting this man in May 2002, he and his host were arrested during a raid of the man’s house by Pakistani police, one of the many house raids in the area. The reason for the arrests was never explained. In fact, the Pakistanis told Mr. Naji that they would release him. But instead, he was taken by Americans stationed in Peshawar and transferred first to Bagram and then to Guantánamo where he was held for eight years without charge or trial before being forcibly repatriated to Algeria.

3. 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 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.

Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 15 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, assisting over 70 prisoners facing the death penalty around the world, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’ 

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