British resident Ahmed Belbacha submits last-ditch plea to Washington court begging to be allowed to stay in Guantánamo Bay

March 26, 2010

Former Bournemouth resident Ahmed Belbacha has submitted a desperate plea to DC’s Federal District Court to prevent his forcible repatriation 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. Reprieve is appealing urgently to European governments for help.

Ahmed had been protected by an injunction barring the US government from repatriating him against his will. In February, a US judge dissolved the injunction but Reprieve immediately requested the decision be reversed, citing the US Supreme Court’s ongoing consideration of a related case: Kiyemba v Obama (Kiyemba II). 

In that case it was decided that US courts could not prevent the Obama Administration from forcibly repatriating prisoners to countries where they face likely torture and persecution. Unfortunately, on Monday, the Supreme Court decided not to review Kiyemba II, allowing this worrying decision to stand.

Reprieve insists that Ahmed’s desperate case deserves the attention of the courts; yesterday his legal team returned to the judge responsible for removing the original injunction and asked again that it be reinstated. This time, Reprieve’s team argued that the judge lacked authority under US law to change the injunction in the first place.

Ahmed Belbacha remains a tragic figure in Guantánamo. Cleared of all charges by the Bush Administration, he has consistently 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 Armé (GIA).

Ahmed’s fears were confirmed by an alarming ‘conviction’ delivered in absentia by an Algerian court last November. In a disgraceful show trial, 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’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, however, no government has come to Ahmed’s rescue, and Reprieve has appealed worldwide – to the governments of Britain, Ireland and Luxembourg – for help.

Ahmed’s attorney, Reprieve’s Tara Murray said:

“This week’s decision by the US Supreme Court places Ahmed Belbacha at an even greater risk of forced repatriation to Algeria. We are fighting tooth and nail to see to it that Ahmed’s fate is not one of torture, persecution, and possibly death. He has repeatedly pleaded for help and we are running out of time. Will the governments of Luxembourg and Ireland hear his pleas?”

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.

For more information please contact Katherine O’Shea at Reprieve’s Press Office: katherine.oshea@reprieve.org.uk 020 7427 1099/ 07931592674 or go to http://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.’ 

ReprievePO Box 52742London EC4P 4WSTel: 020 7353 4640Fax: 020 7353 4641Email: info@reprieve.org.ukWebsite: www.reprieve.org.uk

Reprieve is a charitable company limited by guarantee; Registered Charity No. 1114900 Registered Company No. 5777831 (England) Registered Office 2-6 Cannon Street London EC4M 6YH; Chair: Lord Bingham; Patrons: Alan Bennett, Julie Christie, Martha Lane Fox, Gordon Roddick, Jon Snow, Marina Warner