User:George Swan/sandbox/Mourad Benchellali

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Mourad Benchellali is a French citizen, who was captured in Afghanistan and held in extrajudicial detention in the United States Guantanamo detention camps.[1]

Benchellali is the younger brother of Menad Benchellali, an alleged graduate of the Derunta training camp, who it is claimed, received chemical weapons training.[1] Benchellali and a friend Nizar Sassi are alleged to have traveled to Afghanistan on forged passports.[2]

Menad Benchellali is reported to have directed Mourad, and his friend Nizar Sassi, to go Afghanistan.[3]

Benchellali was transferred from US custody to French custody in July 2004.[4] Under French law, security detainees like Benchellali can be held, without charge, for up to three years.

Accounts of his detention

Benchellali has published a book describing his experience traveling to Afghanistan, his capture, and detention.[5] Following the first three suicides at Guantanamo the New York Times published an op-ed by Benchellali, entitled "Detainees in despair".

In the op-ed Benchellali described how he came to spend two months in an al Qaeda training camp:
In the early summer of 2001, when I was 19, I made the mistake of listening to my older brother and going to Afghanistan on what I thought was a dream vacation. His friends, he said, were going to look after me. They did — channeling me to what turned out to be a Qaeda training camp. For two months, I was there, trapped in the middle of the desert by fear and my own stupidity.

Benchellali said that his training didn't make him an enemy of the United States, that as soon as his course was finished he made his way to the Pakistan border, so he could fly back to France. But, by the time he got there he learned of the al Qaeda attacks of September 11, 2001, and that, as a result, the border was closed. He crossed the border through an unguarded mountain pass, but was soon captured by Pakistani authorities.

Benchellali concluded his op-ed with:

I believe that a small number of the detainees at Guantánamo are guilty of criminal acts, but as analysis of the military's documents on the prisoners has shown, there is no evidence that most of the 465 or so men there have committed hostile acts against the United States or its allies. Even so, what I heard so many times resounding from cage to cage, what I said myself so many times in my moments of complete despondency, was not, "Free us, we are innocent!" but "Judge us for whatever we've done!" There is unlimited cruelty in a system that seems to be unable to free the innocent and unable to punish the guilty.[5]

French trial

Mourad Benchellali, and five other former Guantanamo captives Brahim Yadel, Khaled ben Mustafa, Nizar Sassi, Imad Kanouni and Ridouane Khalid faced charges in France. Their trials started in mid-summer 2006.[6][7] The trials were suspended for eighteen months when classified documents were leaked detailing that French security officials had participated in the interrogation of the French men when they were in US custody in Guantanamo.

The trials resumed in December 2007.[7] Mourad Benchellali and four other men, who all acknowledged they had attended military training camps in Afghanistan, were convicted. Mourad Benchellali received a four year sentence with the last three years of his sentence suspended.

See also

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 An Al Qaeda 'Chemist' and the Quest for Ricin, Washington Post, May 4, 2004. Retrieved on 2008-07-22.
  2. Remand for French Guantanamo four, BBC News, August 1, 2004. Retrieved on 2008-07-22.
  3. Nizar Sassi: A French Detainee Waiting to Return Home, Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism. Retrieved on 2008-07-22.
  4. French Push Limits in Fight On Terrorism: Wide Prosecutorial Powers Draw Scant Public Dissent, Washington Post, November 2, 2004. Retrieved on 2008-07-22.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Detainees in Despair, New York Times, June 14 2006. Retrieved on 2008-07-22.
  6. Pierre-Antoine Souchard. Trial of French ex-Gitmo inmates resumes, Miami Herald, 2007-12-03. Retrieved on 2008-07-22. “The verdict had been expected in September 2006, but was postponed. At the time, the court asked for more information to determine under what conditions the suspects were interrogated by French intelligence officers at the American base.” mirror
  7. 7.0 7.1 Pierre-Antoine Souchard. France convicts, frees 5 ex-Guantánamo inmates, Miami Herald, 2007-12-19. Retrieved on 2008-07-22. “The ruling in France capped proceedings that seemed at times like a trial of the U.S. prison camp itself, with the prosecutor lashing out at the Guantánamo system and saying the prison violates international law.” mirror