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A Secret Deportation Of Terror Suspects

Swedish government officials now say the deportation was an embarrassing mistake. The government has called for an international investigation, possibly under the authority of the United Nations, into how the two men were treated. Separately, the Swedish parliament has opened an internal probe to determine the exact role played by U.S. intelligence agents.

"We have taken the allegations seriously, very seriously," Deputy Foreign Minister Hans Dahlgren said in an interview in Stockholm. "We have asked for an independent, international investigation. . . . It would be in the best interests of the government of Egypt to do this" if the allegations are false.

Ties to Al Qaeda

The better known of the two repatriated men is Ahmed Agiza, a 42-year-old physician whose wife and five children remain in Sweden.

His attorneys have acknowledged that he once worked closely in Egypt with Ayman Zawahiri, the leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad who later merged that group with al Qaeda, becoming Osama bin Laden's second in command. Agiza was a member of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which the State Department has designated a terrorist group.

Agiza said he had once met bin Laden, according to a jailhouse interview he gave to a Swedish radio reporter in 2002 shortly after he returned to Egypt. His attorneys said he cut ties with Zawahiri a decade ago and has denounced the use of violent tactics by Islamic radicals, including al Qaeda.

Agiza left his homeland in 1991, saying he had been repeatedly harassed by Egyptian security forces.

In 1999, while living in Iran, he was convicted in absentia by an Egyptian military court -- along with 106 other defendants -- of belonging to a banned Islamic organization. One year later, he and his family arrived in Sweden on false passports and applied for political asylum.

It is not clear whether Agiza knew Muhammad Zery, 35, the man with whom he would later be deported to Cairo. Zery also left Egypt in 1991, after he was harassed and physically abused there, according to his lawyer. He traveled to Saudi Arabia and Syria before arriving in Sweden in 1999 and requesting asylum.

Swedish officials have said that Zery, too, was convicted in absentia in Egypt and that he was a suspect in the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981, when he would have been 13 years old. But his attorneys and human rights groups that have worked on his behalf said there is no record that Zery was charged with any offenses in Egypt and they can't understand why he was expelled.

The allegations against him are all clearly erroneous, said his Swedish attorney, Kjell Jonsson. "The representatives of the [Swedish] government have been lying or not telling the full truth on this since the beginning."

Bo Johansson, a Stockholm lawyer who has represented Agiza, said Swedish diplomats in Cairo later told the Egyptian man's parents that he was deported because Sweden was under "international pressure" to do so.

"I think the American influence is a very important factor in all of this," Johansson said. "It is becoming clearer as more information comes out. Something happened very quickly after Sept. 11. . . . We had always thought there was an X factor at work here. Now we know that it must have been an American factor."

Secret U.S. Role

The U.S. involvement remained a secret until two months ago, when a Swedish television program -- Kalla Fakta, or "Cold Facts" -- broadcast a documentary reporting that U.S. agents assisted in the apprehension of Agiza and Zery, and that the plane chartered to Cairo had been used in a previous rendition case in Pakistan.

A CIA spokesman declined to comment for this article, and State Department officials declined to comment on the record. But the Swedish government has released previously classified documents that confirm the American role.

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