Morocco extends detention of transferred Gitmo prisoner, despite assurances to US

November 4, 2015

A court in Rabat has today extended the detention of Younous Chekkouri, whom the US transferred from Guantanamo to Morocco seven weeks ago based on assurances that he would not be imprisoned.

At a hearing today, the judge postponed until December 3rd a decision on whether to charge Younous. The charges, if brought, would be based on old US allegations that the Department of Justice has since repudiated. In a recent letter to Younous’ lawyers at human rights organization Reprieve, the Justice Department conceded that in habeas proceedings several years ago, the US “withdrew all reliance” on “all evidence identifying Mr. Chekkouri with the group known as Group Islamique Combatant Maroc [sic] “GICM””.

This allegation – based on a mixture of statements made by detainees under torture and coercion – had been the chief slur against Mr. Chekkouri, until the US government withdrew it. Reprieve had submitted the DoJ letter to the Moroccan court ahead of today’s hearing; today, the judge said that he would look at a ‘detailed interrogation’ of the facts, including testimony from several witnesses.

The decision comes as US Attorney General Loretta Lynch visits Rabat for a US-sponsored summit on judicial cooperation and law enforcement. The joint US-Moroccan event, according to a press release, will see the US Justice and State Departments support a ‘regional workshop’ focused on “questions of […] mutual legal assistance.”

Mr Chekkouri’s Reprieve lawyer, Cori Crider, has written to Ms Lynch asking her to “urgently intervene with Moroccan authorities, urging them to honor their prior assurances regarding Mr. Chekkouri.”

Commenting, Cori Crider, Mr Chekkouri’s lawyer and a director at Reprieve, said:

“Today’s postponement sadly means yet another month of unjust detention for Younous, an innocent man. The US Government itself has conceded that it had to pull the core of its case against Younous in the US, and yet he is facing trial for the selfsame nonsense. We will defend him robustly, but there is no need for him to go through this pointless exercise. The assurances should be kept and the charges should be dropped. How can the Justice Department propose closer links with its Moroccan ally unless Morocco actually honors its agreements with the United States? Attorney General Lynch and the rest of the Obama Administration ought to to keep the promise they made my client many months ago, and see to it that he is released to his family without delay.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. Reprieve is an international human rights organization with offices in London and New York City. For more information, contact Reprieve’s press office:

UK: communications [at] reprieve.org.uk / +44 (0) 207 553 8140
US: katherine [dot] oshea [at] reprieve.org / +1 917 855 8064
2. Reprieve’s letter to the Attorney-General is here.

3. The US Department of Justice letter to Reprieve on Younous’ case is here.