For Immediate Release
donald DOT campbell AT reprieve DOT org DOT uk
Algerian Court Clears Ex-Guantanamo Detainee
The criminal court in Algiers today dropped all charges against Reprieve’s client, Ahmad Belbacha, citing “lack of evidence” as the reason for its decision.
The decision overturned a 20-year sentence which the court had given Ahmad in 2009 – in a hearing that neither Ahmad, his family, or any lawyer attended, or were even informed was due to take place.
Ahmad was released from Guantanamo Bay in March 2014, seven years after his case was first reviewed by a Bush-era panel and he was cleared for transfer. Ahmad’s file was scrutinised again in 2009 by six independent US government agencies, including the CIA and FBI, who unanimously agreed that he should be released from US detention.
After his eventual release from Guantanamo, and return to Algeria, Ahmad was summoned in June for a retrial of the 20 year sentence he had received in absentia. The judge in the June hearing postponed the case, because the prosecution file was empty. Today’s ruling – in which the judge cited “lack of evidence” before throwing the case out and acquitting Ahmad of all charges – finally marks the end of more than a decade of struggle to prove his innocence.
Alka Pradhan, staff attorney at human rights NGO Reprieve said: “We are so happy for Ahmad and his family, but they should never have been made to pay this heavy price. The Algerian justice system today gave Ahmad what he never received from the Americans, and which 136 men detained in Guantanamo today still fail to receive from them: a day in court, a chance to present a defence, and a public examination of the facts. What that court in Algiers found today was that the ‘evidence’ against Ahmad wasn’t just paper thin – it didn’t exist at all. We hope that all those other men still held without trial will soon get their chance to show the same.”
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Reprieve is a UK-based human rights organization that uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay.