Lawyers explain Pakistan trip by 'Guantánamo Swede'
TT/David Landes · 23 Nov 2009, 08:30
Published: 23 Nov 2009 08:30 GMT+01:00
- Another Swede held in Pakistan: report (12 Oct 09)
- Pakistan Swedes arrive home (11 Oct 09)
- Terror suspect Swedes freed from Pakistan (10 Oct 09)
Mehdi Ghezali was arrested on August 28th along with fellow Swedes Munir Awad, 28, 19-year-old Safia Benaouda, and their two and a half-year-old boy while traveling with a group of other foreigners near Dera Ghazi Khan in Punjab province.
The group was suspected of traveling from Quetta to Miranshah, the main city in the lawless region of northern Waziristan, where they were to meet an alleged Taliban leader named Zahir Noor.
After spending more than a month in the custody of Pakistani officials, Ghezali and the other Swedes were released on October 11th. No terror charges were ever filed, although Ghezali was cited for entering the country without a proper visa.
In an attempt to clear the air surrounding the circumstances of the trip, Ghezali’s attorneys, Peter Althin and Anton Strand, have provided an account of their client’s trip in an article in the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.
According to the lawyers, Ghezali and his Swedish companions were in Pakistan as a part of a pilgrimage to celebrate Ramadan in a “larger Pakistani city”. At the time of their arrest, one of the Swedes had claimed they were heading to a meeting with a Muslim revivalist movement in the city of Lahore.
The lawyers explain that the decision to travel to Pakistan arose while the group was traveling through other countries in the Middle East and that the trip was arranged by a tour operator, which had told Ghezali and the other Swedes that visas could be arranged en route.
Althin and Strand are highly critical of both the Swedish state and the media over the way they've treated their client.
The attorneys explain that, despite Ghezali being released from Guantánamo in 2004 without being accused of any wrong doing, he and his family have been under the surveillance of Swedish security service Säpo ever since.
“The situation seems familiar to all of us who’ve read Franz Kafka,” the attorneys write.
They also feel the Swedish media’s coverage of Ghezali has been marked by “xenophobic undertones”.
They add that their client simply wants to be “left in peace.”
“As no government agency has ever accused him of terrorism or spying, it seems a reasonable request that the Swedish press corps can also abstain from formulating those types of accusations,” write Altin and Strand.