UN experts: Algerian man sent home from Guantanamo against his will may be in danger
UNITED NATIONS – Two U.N. special investigators say they fear an Algerian man recently sent home from Guantanamo Bay against his will is in danger.
Juan Mendez and Ben Emmerson on Tuesday said they are "deeply concerned" about the fate of Djamel Saiid Ali Ameziane.
Ameziane's lawyer has said the 46-year-old resisted being returned to Algeria because of fears he might face further imprisonment. The investigators' statement says Ameziane fled the North African country two decades ago to "escape persecution."
His lawyer had urged President Barack Obama's administration, which is working toward gradually closing the prison, to send him elsewhere.
Algerian state television last week said Ameziane and another Algerian returned from Guantanamo, Belkecem Bensayah, were in custody and would appear in court, but it did not give details.
Both Algerians had been held at Guantanamo since 2002 on suspicion of having links to terrorism, but neither was charged by the U.S. Both Ameziane, who was captured in Pakistan, and Bensayah, a 51-year-old captured in Bosnia, fled Algeria during their country's civil war in the 1990s.
In the past, most of the prisoners released to Algeria from Guantanamo have been questioned by a judge and then released.
Mendez, the special investigator for torture, and Emmerson, the special investigator for human rights and counterterrorism, said they will follow up with the Algerian government.
Last week, a spokesman for Clifford Sloan, the State Department's special envoy for Guantanamo closure, said the U.S. government had evaluated the potential threat the men faced in Algeria and found no basis to prevent their repatriation.
Over the years, the U.S. has repatriated 14 prisoners from Guantanamo to Algeria, including two earlier this year. Of the total, two were convicted of involvement with a foreign terrorist organization and one remains in prison, according to the State Department.
The two releases bring the Guantanamo Bay prison population to 162. Only a handful of prisoners face charges, including five men accused of involvement in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Obama had promised to close the prison upon taking office, but Congress placed restrictions on transfers and releases amid security concerns.
Obama earlier this year appointed two special envoys to work with Congress and other countries on a renewed attempt to empty the prison.