Terror suspect Swedes freed from Pakistan
Published: 10 Oct 2009 11:18 GMT+02:00
Updated: 10 Oct 2009 11:18 GMT+02:00
The Swedish foreign ministry has confirmed that four Swedish citizens, arrested in Pakistan in August as terrorist suspects, have been released and put on a flight to Stockholm.
The group include Mehdi Ghezali, who spent two years in Guantánamo Bay following his 2001 arrest in Afghanistan, as well as 28-year-old Munir Awad and 19-year-old Safia Benaouda, and their two and a half-year-old boy.
"I can confirm that they have been released," Cecilia Julin, head of press at the Foreign Ministry told news agency TT.
The ministry has yet to receive a formal statement from the Pakistani authorities on the release. "We interpret it that they have come to the conclusion that there is not enough evidence to hold them," Julin added.
Earlier this week, it was reported that Benaouda and her son were to be released “shortly" following a meeting between Pakistan’s Minister of the Interior Rehman Malik and Swedish Ambassador in Islamabad Ulrika Sundberg.
Malik, who is in charge of Pakistan’s police force, said on Tuesday that he would receive a report about the detained Swedes on Wednesday, at which time he would made a decision about their fate as soon as possible.
The Swedes have been detained since August 28th when they were arrested in northern Pakistan, along with seven Turks, an Iranian, a Russian, and one Pakistani, according the police.
The police reported that the group were found in a prohibited area near a nuclear power facility.
Police suspect the group was on its way to rendezvous with representatives from the Taliban in southern Waziristan, long considered a Taliban stronghold.
One of the Swedes claimed the group was in fact on its way to a meeting with a Muslim revivalist movement in the city of Lahore.
It took until September 16th for Swedish authorities to receive formal confirmation that the Swedes had in fact been arrested.
Lawyer Anton Strand, who is representing on of the men, received notification today that his client had been freed.
“Those who have worked with the case are relieved that it has been handled this way," he said.
"No evidence or formal suspicions have been made against my client other than a recent issue over his visa, that he entered the country without sufficient papers.”
The group was released on Saturday morning and were accompanied to the airport by the Swedish ambassador.
No information have been given as to their expected arrival time in Sweden.
”Our responsibility stops at the airport in Pakistan and they travel home on their own accord," Julin said.
"It is up to them if they want to give out information on when and where they land.”