A former Guantanamo Bay detainee who was resettled in Slovakia by the Obama administration voluntarily returned to his native Egypt this week — whereupon he was immediately arrested, according to his lawyers.
Adel al-Gazzar, who was cleared for transfer by both the Bush administration and an inter-agency task force set up by the Obama administration, was not repatriated to Egypt because U.S. officials and his lawyers feared he would be persecuted or tortured upon his return.
Gazzar, 46, had previously been convicted in absentia of plotting to overthrow the Egyptian government in a trial that his advocates have called a sham.
But in the wake of the revolution that toppled the government of President Hosni Mubarak, Gazzar decided to go home to reunite with his wife and four children. He was also anxious to see his mother, who is ailing, his attorneys said.
Both the U.S. and the Slovak governments were aware of Gazzar’s plans and viewed the decision as his to make. A U.S. official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the case, said he believed it was unlikely that Gazzar would be forced to serve the three-year term to which he had been sentenced, but the official was unsure how long the Egyptian authorities would continue to hold him. Gazzar is being held at a detention center at the Cairo airport.
Reprieve, a London-based legal action charity that represents Gazzar, called for his immediate release.
“The persecution of Adel al Gazzar makes a mockery of everything the revolution stands for. Where is the new dawn?” said Katie Taylor, Reprieve’s Life After Guantanamo Project Officer. “Justice and the rule of law must return to Egypt. This is the third time Adel has been punished for completely unsubstantiated allegations. We hope the Egyptian military will put an end to Adel’s decade-long ordeal.”
Gazzar was turned over to the United States by Pakistani authorities. He had suffered severe leg injuries along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in late 2001 when he said a refugee camp where he was working was struck by U.S. forces. His leg was subsequently amputated at Guantanamo.