December 18, 2009 / 7:25 AM / 9 years ago

Chad bars Guantanamo ex-inmate from travel-lawyers

LONDON (Reuters) - A rights group accused Chad on Thursday of refusing a passport to a former Guantanamo detainee needing foreign treatment for injuries lawyers say were caused during seven years in captivity, which he began as a teenager.

Detainees participate in an early morning prayer session at Camp IV at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base August 5, 2009. REUTERS/Deborah Gembara

Reprieve, a human rights group that campaigned for the release of the man, Mohammed El Gharani, said Chad’s failure to allow him to travel meant he could not see his parents, who live in Saudi Arabia, or get foreign specialist medical treatment.

Gharani was freed in June, five months after a U.S. federal judge ordered him released having reviewed the evidence against him and ruled that there was nothing to suggest he was ever an “enemy combatant”.

A Reprieve statement said his inability to travel since his return to Chad in mid-year meant he could not seek attention for a crippling spine injury resulting from abuse in captivity, and ensured “he remains impoverished and emotionally isolated”.

The statement quoted the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, as urging Chad to provide Gharani, a Chadian citizen, “with a passport and to permit his travelling abroad for receiving appropriate medical and psychological torture rehabilitation treatment”.

“I am particularly concerned about the fate of Gharani, who began his captivity as a teenager, was still a child when transferred to Guantanamo and who has lost some of his most important years of adolescence in illegal detention,” he added.

Youssouf Takane, Chad’s deputy ambassador to the United States, told Reuters by telephone he expected that in time Gharani would be issued with a new passport.

“The Chadian government cannot deprive Gharani of his citizenship or his rights of citizenship,” he said. “It is maybe a question of time. There are a few minor security matters to be addressed. The authorities will accelerate this issue.”

SEIZED IN PAKISTAN

Gharani was seized in Pakistan in 2001 when a mosque he was attending was raided by Pakistan’s security forces. He was ultimately turned over to the U.S. military in Afghanistan and held at a prison at Bagram air force base outside Kabul.

Two months later he was transferred to Guantanamo Bay, where Reprieve said he was subjected to a range of abuses, including being kept tightly shackled to the ground in a hunched position for hours on end and subjected to loud music and strobe lights.

The U.S. government accused Gharani of staying in an al Qaeda-affiliated guest house in Afghanistan, of fighting in the battle of Tora Bora, serving as a courier for senior al Qaeda operatives, and being a member of a London-based al Qaeda cell.

The government failed to prove the allegations in court and U.S. District Judge Richard Leon ruled in January Gharani should be freed. Most of the accusations were based on unreliable information given by other detainees at Guantanamo, Leon said.

“Of all the stories to emerge from Guantanamo, Mohammed’s is one of the most heartbreaking. Chad must accept that Mohammed is a victim of tremendous injustice and treat him as such,” said Reprieve director Clive Stafford-Smith.

Lawyers for Gharani said he was the youngest detainee to be released from Guantanamo, having been seized in 2001 when he was 14. The Pentagon has disputed his age, saying he came to Guantanamo at the age of 16.

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