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France orders 5 former Gitmo inmates back to court

Last Updated: Thursday, February 18, 2010 - 09:58

Paris: France`s highest court on Wednesday overruled a lower court`s acquittal of five former inmates at the Guantanamo Bay prison and ordered an appeals court to rehear the case centring on terrorism charges.
The Court of Cassation did not immediately explain its reasons for the ruling yesterday.

The men were first convicted in December 2007 for alleged links to a terror group. But a Paris appeals court in February last year acquitted them, ruling that French police agents were out of line in questioning them at the US prison camp.

France is among the few Western countries to prosecute nationals who have returned home from Guantanamo. The ruling was a high-profile foreign disavowal of the prison, which US President Obama wants to shut down.

The Paris criminal court in 2007 convicted the five — Ridouane Khalid, Brahim Yadel, Khaled ben Mustafa, Nizar Sassi and Mourad Benchellali — of "criminal association with a terrorist enterprise”, a broad charge often used in terror cases in France.

During the original 2007 trial, the suspects had acknowledged having spent time in military training camps in Afghanistan, but said they had never put their combat skills to use.

But last February, a Paris appeals court ruled that agents from the French counterterrorism agency DST who questioned the five inmates at Guantanamo in 2002 and 2004 had overstepped their roles, and overturned the convictions. The court ruled that DST could not act as both a spy agency and a judicial police service, which questions detainees under French law.

Bureau Report

First Published: Thursday, February 18, 2010 - 09:58

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