Adel al-Gazzar’s detention in Egypt: Day 5

June 17, 2011

Four days after arriving home to Egypt, former Guantanamo prisoner Adel Al-Gazzar remains detained at Tora prison

After a decade-long ordeal of detention without trial, torture and medical neglect so severe that it resulted in his leg having to be amputated, ex-Guantanamo prisoner Adel Al-Gazzar arrived at the Cairo Airport on Monday in order to be reunited with his family and re-start his life in post-revolutionary Egypt.

Adel, his wife and four children were anxiously anticipating the reunion of which they had dreamed for all those years. Children Adel had last seen as babies are now teenagers— one of his sons is currently taking his exams to graduate from high school.

Sadly, their expectations that a joyous reunion would be possible following Egypt’s revolution were dashed.

Adel was arrested at the airport after spending only an hour and a half with his family and eventually taken to Tora prison. He has been sentenced to a three-year jail term on charges levelled against him while he was imprisoned at Guantanamo. His lawyers—whom he has been prevented from meeting during the 72 hours since his arrival in the country—are calling for the sentence to be struck down as the charges are baseless. But meanwhile, he and his family are undergoing a long, painful wait.

Adel’s 11-year old daughter, Hagar said: “I was so happy to see my father after 10 years. But my heart broke when we left for home without him. I couldn’t stop crying.

Reprieve Investigator Ghada El-Demellawy said: “It is disgraceful that Adel’s fair trial rights are being violated for a third time. He and his family are being punished for baseless charges which should have been quashed along with Mubarak’s regime.

Notes for Editors:<>

Religious missionary Adel Fattough Ali al Gazzar was sold for a bounty after being severely wounded by a US airstrike in Afghanistan in 2001.Adel travelled to Pakistan in 2000 to undertake a religious mission to preach the Koran. After 9/11 and the advent of the war in Afghanistan, he learned of the many families that were displaced and distraught by the onset of war. Desiring to ease their suffering as best he could, Adel signed up with the Red Crescent and volunteered to go into Afghanistan to help the refugees. Within two hours of crossing the border to a refugee camp, the area was hit by a US airstrike.Adel’s leg was injured and he spent the next month convalescing in a Pakistani hospital before being sold to the US military for a bounty. In the midst of his recovery, he was transferred to a US prison in Kandahar, Afghanistan, where the routine included severe beatings, exposure to freezing temperatures, sleep deprivation for days on end, and the suspension of prisoners by their wrists. Adel endured this torture for eleven days before being transferred to Guantánamo Bay. He had received no medical attention during his time in Kandahar, and as a result, his leg was infected with gangrene so severe that it had to be amputated.

Realizing that they had made a mistake, the US authorities cleared Adel for release. The US deemed it unsafe for Adel to return to Egypt, and he began the long wait for a third country to accept him. That wait lasted eight years until 2010, when Adel was finally released from custody at Guantánamo. However, his release from Guantánamo did not signal freedom. Rather, he was transferred to Slovakia where he was illegally imprisoned in an immigration detention centre for more than six months. Though he had done nothing wrong and, indeed, had been completely exonerated by the Americans, Adel was only able to secure his release after going on a hunger strike to protest against the manner in which he was being held.Adel wanted nothing more than to return to Egypt. He had not seen his family, including his wife and four children, for a decade. Efforts by his family to visit him in Slovakia were thwarted. And, recently, his mother suffered a cerebral haemorrhage which has left her paralysed and requiring full time care.His arrest on Monday represents the third time he has being punished for vague, undefined crimes of which he is innocent. He spent eight years in Guantanamo without charge or trial, six months illegally detained in a Slovakian immigration detention centre upon his release from Guantanamo and is now being sent to prison without a fair trial for a third time—this time in his own country. He was tried in absentia by an Egyptian military court in 2002—while detained in Guantanamo—and received a 3-year sentence for association with Al-Wa’ad group. The Al-Wa’ad case had 94 defendants and was widely discredited as being an attack by Mubarak against his political opponents. Nearly all the defendants in this case have since been released.

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 26 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.

Reprieve has also represented a large number of prisoners who have been rendered and abused around the world, and is conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.