Algerian ‘show trial’ raises grave fears for British resident Ahmed Belbacha

December 2, 2009

Image of Ahmed Belbacha

Ahmed remains in Guantánamo Bay for fear of persecution outside; Reprieve calls on the US and UK governments to address his desperate situation.

Ahmed Belbacha’s fears for his future safety have been confirmed by an alarming ‘verdict’ delivered in absentia by an Algiers court.

In a disgraceful ‘show trial’ on Sunday, the court sentenced Ahmed to 20 years in prison for belonging to an ‘overseas terrorist group’. The trial lacked any semblance of recognisable legal process and appears to be retaliation against Ahmed for speaking out about Algeria.

Ahmed remains a tragic figure. Cleared under the Bush administration and free to leave Guantánamo, Ahmed has chosen to stay imprisoned rather than face his fate in Algeria, a country he originally fled after threats on his life by the terrorist group Group Islamique Arme (GIA).

Reprieve insists that the US Administration should not return Ahmed Belbacha to Algeria and appeals to the British government for help.

Ahmed lived for years in Bournemouth where he studied English and worked hard; during a Labour conference he was responsible for cleaning the hotel room of Deputy PM John Prescott, from whom he received a healthy tip and note of appreciation. He is now in his seventh year of imprisonment without charge in Guantánamo Bay.

Ahmed’s plight, together with his gentle nature, has attracted private offers of help from both sides of the Atlantic. He has been given a room in a flat by a Bournemouth resident, and the Massachusetts town of Amherst has offered him permanent refuge in defiance of US Congress. So far, however, no government has come to Ahmed’s rescue.

Reprieve’s Legal Director and Ahmed’s attorney Cori Crider said:

“After all Ahmed has suffered in Guantánamo, it is unthinkable that he be returned to a country which openly seeks to abuse him further. Ahmed wants nothing more than to live a quiet life and that is the least he is owed. Sending Ahmed to Algeria would be his worst nightmare and a shocking betrayal. We implore the British government to help President Obama by giving Ahmed a chance at a new life in the UK.”

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

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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