Reprieve thanks Italy for agreeing to accept three Tunisian prisoners from Guantánamo Bay

June 18, 2009

Reprieve thanks Italy for agreeing to accept three Tunisian prisoners from Guantánamo Bay, but further urges Rome to allow the return of all Italian residents currently held in Guantánamo.

The identities of the prisoners have yet to be confirmed by any administration official, but reports indicate they may be Nasri Riad, Moez Fezzani and Adel Ben Mabrouk. The grave risk of persecution in Tunisia makes it unsafe for any citizen to return there from Guantánamo. The three are apparently slated to face trial in Milan, where they have been indicted on charges related to terrorism.

“After years of being held illegally without charge or trial it’s a relief, in a sense, that these men will have some legal rights restored,” said Reprieve director Clive Stafford Smith. “That said, we hope the Italian authorities bear in mind the years of abuse and imprisonment they have suffered at the hands of the American government and are not tempted to return them to Tunisia, where they face certain persecution. Officials in Rome should also remember that there are many other legal Italian residents in Guantánamo Bay who are not wanted for crimes in Italy. If Italy is serious about helping Barack Obama to fulfil his promise to close Guantánamo, it should agree to take all its legal residents, not only those it is seeking to prosecute.”

Research carried out by Reprieve shows that Italy is the European country that has the largest number of legal residents still held in Guantánamo Bay.

“We know of approximately ten men who called Italy home in the past, and would be delighted to do so once again,” Reprieve staff attorney Cori Crider said. “Many could return to Italy with no prosecution whatsoever. They are men like Sherif el Mashad, who spent four years living in Como, during which time he built a thriving business from scratch, paid his taxes regularly and became an asset to his community, or Hedi Hammami, who lived and worked happily as a porter in Bologna.”

“Surely these men and others like them deserve the right to rebuild their lives in a country that they know and love. Indeed, Reprieve asked the Italian government to accept many of its former residents over a year ago.”

On taking office in January, President Obama pledged to close Guantánamo Bay within a year. Six months later, just eleven prisoners have been released and around 230 remain imprisoned on the base, proof that there is still much to do if the new President is going to keep his word and close Guantánamo Bay.

-ENDS-

For more information please contact Katherine O’Shea at Reprieve’s Press Office katherine.oshea@reprieve.org.uk 020 7427 1099.

Notes for Editors:

Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.

Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 33 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, working on behalf of prisoners facing the death penalty, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’

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