British resident Ahmed Belbacha fights to stay in Guantánamo after a court order preventing his forced repatriation to Algeria is revoked

March 9, 2010

Former Bournemouth resident Ahmed Belbacha is this week making a desperate plea to the US courts to prevent him being forcibly returned to Algeria. 

The 39-year-old so fears what awaits him in his home country that he would prefer to stay imprisoned in Guantánamo Bay. The courts, previously sympathetic, are now dissolving the injunction that prevented the dreaded repatriation.

Ahmed’s fears were confirmed by an alarming ‘conviction’ delivered in absentia by an Algerian court last November. In a disgraceful show trial lacking any semblance of legal process, the court sentenced Ahmed to 20 years in prison for belonging to an ‘overseas terrorist group’.

Despite repeated requests and extensive investigation, Reprieve’s lawyers have been unable to discover what exactly Ahmed is supposed to have done. No evidence has been produced to support his ‘conviction’, which appears to be retaliation against Ahmed for speaking out about Algeria.

Ahmed remains a tragic figure in Guantánamo. Cleared of all charges by the Bush Administration, he has consistently chosen to stay imprisoned rather than return to the country he originally fled after threats on his life by the terrorist group Group Islamique Armé (GIA). 

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 refuge in defiance of Congress.

So far no government has come to Ahmed’s rescue, and Reprieve has appealed worldwide – to the governments of Britain, Ireland, and Luxembourg – for help.

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

“At this moment, Ahmed Belbacha is completely vulnerable. There is zero doubt about the torture he faces—after a secret trial with secret charges where he seems not even to have had a lawyer. Will we now dump a man cleared in 2006 in Algeria, after all he has said? He has waited long enough for refuge. We implore the governments of Luxembourg, Ireland, and the UK to help President Obama by giving Ahmed a chance at a new life.”

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

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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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