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"Prisoner of Guantanamo" Ghezali to sue Rumsfeld

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16:48 CET+01:00
Mehdi Ghezali has announced through his lawyer that he intends to sue US Secretary of State for Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, for damages. The Swede spent over two years in the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba under suspicion of membership of the al-Qaida terror network. No concrete evidence was ever produced and he was released in July last year.

Ghezali is being represented by one of Sweden's most famous lawyers, Peter Althin. Althin had no qualms about aiming for one of the top figures in the American administration:

"We're talking about a figure in the millions. The issue is Secretary of State Rumsfeld and his subordinates... Damages would be some kind of consolation for Ghezali. It's not certain that he'll ever get over his ordeal."

Althin is currently negotiating with an American legal firm to help bring the case to court.

Ghezali's story has coincidentally now been told in a new book published today called "Fången i Guantanamo" (Prisoner of Guantanamo). Although the book, written by journalist Gösta Hultén, adds little to what was known before, it gives the public a reminder of why Ghezali wishes to pursue his case.

Ghezali claims that in 2001 he had spent time in Pakistan and then Afghanistan studying Islam. When the Americans invaded Afghanistan, he was in Jalalabad and fled back to Pakistan. He was in a group of refugees which was then handed over to American forces on suspicion of belonging to al-Qaida.

In the book, Ghezali gives numerous examples of harsh treatment and torture. These include sexual harassment at the hands of a female guard, being exposed to extreme heat and cold and long periods of sleep deprivation. He describes being chained for up to 14 hours a day in a cold interrogation room:

"After a while it got so cold my body started shaking uncontrollably. I couldn't stop the shaking."

However, Ghezali claims that his ordeal did not end when he stepped off the plane in Sweden on 8 July last year. Hultén is just as indignant at the treatment the Swede has received in his home country.

The book claims that he has been under constant surveillance in his Örebro home at the hands of Säpo. It's also alleged that he was followed on a trip to Helsinki to visit his mother, who was subsequently interviewed by Finnish police. Hultén told Sveriges Radio:

"He doesn't feel he's been offered the protection one would expect in a democracy such as Sweden. He thinks the Americans lie behind the activity and that Sweden's helping them although it contravenes his human rights."

Hultén sees it as a similar case to the deportation of Egyptians in December 2001 and accuses Säpo of uncritically helping the United States pursue its war on terror, irrespective of whether it runs counter to Swedish law.

Säpo have refused to comment on either the book or Mehdi Ghezali.

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Svenska Dagbladet, Aftonbladet, SR

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