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'Guantánamo Swede' arrested in Pakistan

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'Guantánamo Swede' arrested in Pakistan
11:09 CEST+02:00
One of the three Swedish nationals arrested nearly two weeks ago in Pakistan is Mehdi Ghezali, a former terror suspect who was released from the United States' Guantánamo Bay prison in 2004.

According to Sveriges Television (SVT), it was Ghezali, along with two other Swedes and several other foreigners, who was arrested by police in Pakistan on suspicions the group had ties with the Al-Qaeda terrorist network.

“We confiscated a laptop and $10,000 they had with them,” said a spokesperson for the Pakistani military, according to the Expressen newspaper.

The arrests took place at a checkpoint in Dera Ghazi Khan in Punjab province, when the group was reportedly on its way to southern Waziristan, a stronghold for the Taliban in Pakistan, near the border with Afghanistan.

The now 30-year-old Ghezali, a resident of Örebro in central Sweden, was arrested in December 2001 and put in custody of the US military shortly after the start of the campaign in Afghanistan.

He spent more than two years in a prison for terror suspects set up by the American military on its base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Ghezali, dubbed in the Swedish media as the "Guantánamo Swede", was never put on trial nor was he told why he had been detained. He was released from the prison in July 2004, whereupon he returned to Sweden.

New reports that Ghezali has again been arrested in Pakistan on terror suspicions came as a surprise to his attorney, Anton Strand.

“Yes, I'm surprised by it. One should remember that Ghezali has traveled in that region previously and he has an interest in the region. He is religious and has friends and contacts,” Strand told Expressen.

Gösta Hultén, the Swedish journalist who wrote a book detailing Ghezali's story, told the Aftonbladet newspaper that Ghezali's father believes his son is on a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia and called home from there a few days ago.

“The father is very upset about the allegations that Mehdi has ties to Al-Qaeda. He has already been cleared from those suspicions once,” said Hultén.

Sweden's foreign ministry in Stockholm refused to comment on the information, although spokesperson for the Swedish embassy in Islamabad told SVT that they have yet to receive any confirmation from authorities in Pakistan that Swedes have been arrested.

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