Europe stiffens on terror suspects
Britain is trying to enact measures this week that would impose house arrest and ban Internet use.
LONDON AND SARAJEVO, BOSNIA
Sabiha Delic was pregnant the last time she saw her husband. Now her son is almost 3 and still has never seen his father.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Moustafa Ait Idir was seized from the Bosnian capital soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on charges that he was plotting to bomb the US and British Embassies there. He was subsequently dispatched to Guantánamo Bay, even though the charges were dropped.
"His only mistake was that he was born in Algeria," says Ms. Delic, referring to the man who came to Bosnia to fight alongside Muslims in the 1990s conflict. "People elsewhere in the world fight for the rights of animals, but here there are no rights. I haven't even heard his voice over the telephone."
Delic's hopes were raised a notch in recent weeks, as the Bosnian authorities stepped up efforts to get six detainees returned from US internment.
But as Bosnia may well discover, repatriation presents problems of its own. European countries have been appalled at the situation at Guantánamo Bay, where the US holds "enemy combatants," often without specific charges. But Europe's own legal processes for dealing with returnees have been murky at best - and harsh at worst - say human rights lawyers.
France has locked up four nationals for more than six months while a judge sifts the evidence against them. Britain has denied passports to four of nine people released; police and government officials will neither confirm nor deny that some remain under surveillance.
Spain, meanwhile, held its single returnee for more than four months while it investigated his supposed terror links. Russia did the same to its seven former Guantánamo inmates. Swedish and Danish intelligence services are reported to be continuing to monitor their former prisoners.
"It's very sad that you abuse people for three years and then abuse them when they get home," says Clive Stafford Smith, a lawyer who has represented four of the Britons. "Apart from the incredibly bad public relations that [governments] get out of this, there is no evidence that they are getting anything worthwhile in terms of intelligence."
Lawyers say that the fact that the US released these Europeans indicates that they are not Al Qaeda foot soldiers. Instead, they say, many were in the wrong place at the wrong time, like the three British former inmates dubbed the "Taliban tourists" - Muslims who say they traveled to Afghanistan out of religious curiosity.
"If there were serious charges against them the US would not have let them leave Guantánamo," says Patrick Baudouin, a French lawyer and president of the International Federation for Human Rights. "If they were released it is because they have no important charges against them."
Yet the Pentagon has identified at least seven released prisoners who have gone on to take up terrorist activities. In one notable case, Denmark's Slimane Hadj Abderrahmane announced on television that he planned to travel to Chechnya to fight with Islamic militants there.