Säpo slammed over deportation of Egyptians

The security police service, Säpo, has been "severely reprimanded" by Sweden's Justice Ombudsman, Mats Melin, over the way it handled the deportation of two Egyptians in December 2001. Melin has however stopped short of prosecuting Säpo in the belief that his strongly worded critique of its actions will have the desired effect.

Ahmed Agiza and Muhammed al-Zari were applying for political asylum in Sweden when they were arrested by Säpo, subjected to a deportation order from the government and flown back to Egypt, all in the course of one day – 18th December.

Säpo had suspected the two men of planning terrorist acts from Sweden and asked the US intelligence agency, the CIA, to transport them to Egypt. Säpo lost control of the situation as soon as American agents stepped off the plane at Bromma airport in Stockholm.

Melin accuses Säpo of “marked passivity” towards the Americans and says the Americans were given “free rein to act as the official authority” on Swedish territory. Such a situation is illegal according to Swedish law.

Säpo failed to check with the American agents what they intended to do with the Egyptians and what their procedures were. Melin established that all the Säpo officers at the scene were relatively junior in rank and none of them saw themselves as being in charge.

When Agiza and al-Zari were handed over to the American agents, they had their clothes cut off, they were drugged and had nappies put on them. During the flight, they were handcuffed to a mattress.

Melin considers that such treatment is “foreign to Swedish police methods and cannot be tolerated”.

Melin is also critical of the government’s role in the affair. It is forbidden in Swedish law to extradite people to countries which are known to torture prisoners and operate the death penalty. The Swedish government got round the legislation by negotiating guarantees from the Egyptian government that Agiza and Alzery would not be subject to such treatment.

Despite this, Swedish government officials have visited the men about twenty times in prison and have said that there are indications, but no clear proof, of ill treatment.

However, Melin doesn’t intend to bring any prosecutions in relation to the affair. He told SvD:

“I’ve thought long and hard about the issue but I’ve expressed some strong criticism and I’m happy to leave it at that.”

Melin was quick to underline the importance of international co-operation in the war on terror, but was equally clear that Swedish agencies should have control over any security operations conducted in Sweden:

“Foreign police should never be able to act in an official capacity on Swedish territory. The more extensive and intensive international police work becomes, the more important it is to have robust regulations.”

Agiza is currently serving a fifteen year prison term in Egypt for terrorist offences. al-Zari has been released.