Lawyers explain Pakistan trip by ‘Guantánamo Swede’

Lawyers representing a former Swedish terror suspect who spent time in the United States’ Guantánamo Bay prison, claim their client was not traveling to any trouble spots when he was arrested in Pakistan in August.

Lawyers explain Pakistan trip by 'Guantánamo Swede'

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.

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Swedish prosecutors upgrade Almedalen knife attack to terror crime

Prosecutors in Sweden are now treating the murder at the Almedalen political festival as a terror crime, with the country's Säpo security police taking over the investigation.

Swedish prosecutors upgrade Almedalen knife attack to terror crime

In a press release issued on Monday evening, the Swedish Prosecution Authority, said that the 32-year-old attacker, Theodor Engström, was now suspected of the crime of “terrorism through murder”, and also “preparation for a terror crime through preparation for murder”. 

Engström stabbed the psychiatrist Ing-Marie Wieselgren last Wednesday as she was on her way to moderate a seminar at the Almedalen political festival on the island of Gotland. 

Although he was a former member of the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement, police said his motive seemed to be to protest against Sweden’s psychiatry services, who he felt had treated his own mental illness badly. 

The release gave no details as to why the 32-year-old was now being investigated for a more serious crime, but terror expert Magnus Ranstorp told the Expressen newspaper that the shift indicated that police had uncovered new evidence. 

READ ALSO: What do we now know about the Almedalen knife attack? 

“The new crime classification means that they’ve either found a political motive for the attack which meets the threshold for terrorism, and that might be a political motive for murdering Ing-Marie Wieselgren,” he said. “Or they might have discovered that he was scouting out a politician, or another target that could be considered political.” 

Engström’s defence lawyer said last week that his client, who he described as disturbed and incoherent, had spoken in police interrogations of having “a higher-up target”.