July 22, 2010 / 11:49 AM / in 9 years

Algeria denies detaining Guantanamo returnee

ALGERIA (Reuters) - An Algerian man sent home from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay has not been detained on his return, an Algerian official said Thursday, rejecting rights groups allegations he was being mistreated.

Abdul Aziz Naji was transferred from the military prison in Cuba to Algeria against his will, having said he feared persecution. A U.S. based rights group said Wednesday he had gone missing and could be in secret detention.

U.S. President Barack Obama has made a commitment to close down the Guantanamo Bay prison and any evidence that former detainees are mistreated after they are released and sent home could make it harder for him to meet that target.

“It is out of the question that this person has been detained in Algeria,” said Farouk Ksentini, chairman of Algeria’s National Consultative Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, a state body.

“I formally deny this information, which in my view does not make any sense,” Ksentini told Reuters, though he added that he did not know Naji’s whereabouts.

“One should not forget that Algeria has for a decade been applying a policy of national reconciliation,” he said, referring to an amnesty for Islamist insurgents who have been fighting Algerian security forces since the early 1990s.

“I should also add that 10 Algerian detainees have returned to Algeria from Guantanamo and have had no problem whatsoever. Why should this gentleman be any different from the others?”

Reporting by Lamine Chikhi; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Jon Hemming

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