Ahcene Zemiri

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Ahcene Zemiri (1967-) (also known as Hassan Zumiri) is an Algerian citizen held at Guantanamo Bay detention camps, in Cuba. He was the third prisoner there, and has claimed to be a refugee caught in Afghanistan but without terrorist connections.

He was an illegal immigrant to Canada, although his wife is a citizen. Should he be freed, it is unclear whether Canada would take him, given he has a record of petty theft there. He may also face charges in Algeria.

Background

According to his attorney, James Dorsey, he grew up in Algiers, the youngest of many children, graduated from ninth grade and completed compulsory military service. In the 1980s, he moved to France, joining a brother's export business but also dealing in drugs. He moved to Montreal, allegedly on a forged passport in 1994, and married Karina Dereshteanu, a Romanian. [1]

In 1998, he was arrested by Niagara Falls police while with a man believed to be high in the Armed Islamic Group. After Ahmed Ressam was arrested in 1999, he claimed, but later retracted, that Zemiri had given him a large amount of money. He remained under increasing Canadian surveillance.[2]

They moved to Afghanistan in June 2001 when Canadian authorities pressured illegal immigrants, and moved to Jalalabad, Afghanistan. Following the 9-11 attacks, they wanted to get out to a safer place; she was pregnant and could move more easily, so she returned to Canada.

He joined a group of Arab men, in the Tora Bora region, who were trying to emigrate to Pakistan. In November 2001, they were observed and attacked by U.S. aircraft; he was wounded. According to Dorsey, "He found his way to a village the next morning and they told him: 'It's OK. We will take care of you. We are Taliban.' " They surrendered him, and, by spring 2002, he was in Guantanamo.

Dorsey said that he simply knew Ressam as another Algerian in Montreal.

Status determination in Guantanamo

He had a Combatant Status Review Tribunal, on 18 October 2004, with a Summary of Evidence document [3] in which name was spelled Hassan Zumiri. It listed eleven allegations against him, which were paraphrased in the Montreal Gazette and the Ottawa Citizen on July 11th, 2005.[4] Court documents alleged:

  • Zemiri travelled to Afghanistan with a stolen passport.
  • That passport was in the possession of an Al-Qa'ida facilitator.
  • The detainee travelled to Canada on a false French passport.
  • He carried a weapon in Afghanistan.
  • The detainee was an active member of a network supporting subversion in Algeria, and planned to take part in jihad there.
  • He knew Algerian al-Qaeda members in Kabul, Afghanistan.
  • The detainee associated with Islamic extremists, and at least three persons whom he considered terrorists.
  • The detainee is a personal friend of Ahmed Ressam, arrested at the U.S.-Canada border en route to a terrorist attack in the United States.
  • He provided financing and equipment to Ressam.

Administrative Review Board hearings

He has had two Administrative Review Boards.

October 2005

The October 2005 Summary of Evidence listed 31 factors favoring his continued detention, and one factor that favored release or transfer. The factors favoring detention focused on his associates. The factor favoring his release or transfer stated: "The detainee expressed that in the future he will no longer have friends like the ones he had before. The detainee has learned his lesson."[5] He chose to attend his first annual Board hearing.[6] The summarized transcript from his hearing is 8 pages long.

Zemiri's Assisting Military Officer told his board they met on December 16th 2005 for one hour, to prepare for Zemiri's hearing. At that meeting, his was "...responsive, attentive, but very reserved during the interview." That officer said he made efforts to convince Zemiri to attend, reassuring him that he could choose to attend, and also choose not to answer any questions. He told the Board that Zemiri decided to attend and to respond verbally to each factor.

Zemiri did attend but declined to respond the factors listed in his summary of evidence memo, on his lawyer's advice. Affidavits from Zemiri, his wife, and a friend named Mokhtar Haouari were submitted.[6]

November 2006

The November 2006 Summary of Evidence listed 19 factors favoring his continued detention, and 3 factors favoring his release or transfer.[7]

Appeals

In 2008, he and another detainee Mohamedou Ould Slahi petitioned a Canadian court to provide them with interview records that they say they gave to Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Canadian Security Intelligence Service officers at Guantanamo in 2003 and 2004.[2] This was rejected in February 2009, on the grounds that since they were not Canadian citizens, they were not entitled to the protection of the Canadian charter. [8] That Canadian authorities questioned Guantanamo prisoners, however, had not been previously mentioned.

On February 9, 2009, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ordered that the U.S. government disclose all exculpatory evidence to the petitioners, including Zemiri.[9]

References

  1. Sharon Schmickle and Judith Yates Borger (November 20, 2007), "Lawyers learning more and more about their client", Minneapolis Post
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Terror suspects take Mounties, CSIS to court", Canwest News Service, October 25, 2008
  3. OARDEC (18 October 2004). Summary of Evidence for Combatant Status Review Tribunal -- Zumiri, Hassan pages 57-58. United States Department of Defense. Retrieved on 2007-11-22.
  4. Montrealer sold to U.S. troops: wife, Montreal Gazette, July 11, 2005. Retrieved on 2005-07-12
  5. OARDEC (October 31, 2005). Unclassified Summary of Evidence for Administrative Review Board in the case of Zumiri, Hassan pages 91-94. United States Department of Defense. Retrieved on 2007-11-06.
  6. 6.0 6.1 OARDEC (December 2005). Summary of Administrative Review Board Proceedings of ISN 533 pages 73-80. United States Department of Defense. Retrieved on 2007-11-22.
  7. OARDEC (November 1, 2006). Unclassified Summary of Evidence for Administrative Review Board in the case of Zamiri, Hasan pages 20-22. United States Department of Defense. Retrieved on 2007-11-06.
  8. "Court dismisses Guantanamo detainees' bid for records", Canwest News Service, February 16, 2009
  9. Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, U.S. District Judge (February 9, 2009), Ahcene Zimiri v. Barack Obama, Civil Action 04-2046, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia