[Ppnews] Guantánamo prisoner asks judges to prevent his forced return to torture in Algeria

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Apr 28 10:53:16 EDT 2010


Guantánamo prisoner Ahmed Belbacha begs nine US 
federal judges to prevent his forced return to 
torture in Algeria; requests extraordinary en 
banc hearing on 'question of life and death'.

Former British resident Ahmed Belbacha today 
requested that his case be heard by all nine 
active judges in the Washington district court, 
citing issues of crucial constitutional 
importance and the highest human stakes.

An en banc hearing is requested only in the most 
serious of cases, where the legal system has 
otherwise failed to produce justice or resolve 
key questions of constitutional law. The question 
in Ahmed's petition is whether "the United States 
may transfer an unwilling Guantánamo detainee to 
another country where the detainee is likely to face torture".

Ahmed is just such a prisoner. As the 
baldly states: "The rack and the screw will be 
the least of Mr. Belbacha's worries if he is transferred to Algeria".

Ahmed would be the first Guantánamo prisoner to 
be heard en banc and, if granted, such a hearing 
may be his lifeline. Recently, one federal judge 
refused to block Ahmed's forced repatriation to 
torture, after the district court dissolved a 
2008 injunction prohibiting the transfer.

39 year-old accountant 
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 in 
absentia ‘conviction’ by an Algerian court last 
November, condemning him to 20 years in prison on 
mysterious charges. Ahmed was not represented at 
the 'trial', which produced zero evidence and 
appears to be retaliation for speaking out about Algeria.

In that context, Reprieve was deeply disturbed by 
the US Attorney General Eric Holder’s recent 
visit to Algiers to sign a ‘mutual legal 
assistance treaty’ with the Algerian Minister of 
Justice. Ahmed's legal team will seek protection 
from the Supreme Court if necessary and Reprieve 
is appealing worldwide – to the governments of 
Britain, Ireland and Luxembourg - for help.

Ahmed's attorney Cori Crider of Reprieve, said: 
“Mr. Belbacha's plea to the Court is simple. All 
he asks is the right to be heard about the 
torture awaiting him in Algeria. If the Court is 
no more than a rubberstamp for the government in 
such a case, where torture is at stake, what is 
left of the Torture Convention? What remains of 
the principle that it is judges--not the 
President and his officials--who say what the law is?"


Ahmed Belbacha lived for years in the seaside 
town of Bournemouth, UK, 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.

Ahmed’s fears about Algeria were confirmed by an 
alarming ‘conviction’ delivered in absentia by an 
Algerian court last November. In a disgraceful 
show trial, where no lawyer was appointed to 
defend Ahmed, the court sentenced him 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 
the inhumane treatment he would be subjected to if sent to Algeria.

Ahmed had been protected by an injunction barring 
the US government from repatriating him against 
his will, but a US judge dissolved the injunction 
in February. 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 which it was 
decided that US courts could not prevent the 
Obama Administration from forcibly repatriating 
prisoners to countries where they face 
persecution. Worryingly, on Monday 22nd March, 
the Supreme Court decided not to review Kiyemba 
II; Reprieve then submitted another plea to DC’s 
federal district court on 24th March, followed by 
an emergency motion over the Easter weekend 
following Attorney General Holder’s announcement 
of a treaty with Algeria. Those pleas were denied.

Ahmed’s plight, together with his gentle nature, 
has attracted private offers of help. He has been 
given a room in a flat by a Bournemouth resident, 
and two Massachusetts towns have offered him 
refuge in defiance of Congress. So far, however, 
no government has come forward to help.

petition for an en banc hearing is available at 
For more information please contact Katherine 
O’Shea at Reprieve’s Press Office: 
katherine.oshea at reprieve.org.uk 020 7427 1099/ 07931592674.

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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London EC4P 4WS

Tel: 020 7353 4640

Fax: 020 7353 4641

Email: <mailto:info at reprieve.org.uk>info at reprieve.org.uk

Website: <http://www.reprieve.org.uk/>www.reprieve.org.uk

Reprieve is a charitable company limited by 
guarantee; Registered Charity No. 1114900 
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6YH; Chair: Lord Bingham; Patrons: Alan Bennett, 
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