Lawyer: documents prove my client was truthful
The latest revelations from Wikileaks about Gitmo detainees have also sparked criticism here in Sweden. It is old news that one Swede numbered among the prisoners there. But according to the newly leaked documents, he was not held on suspicion of a crime, but rather for information he could give the U.S.
Mehdi Ghezali is a 31-year-old Swede, who, back in 2001, was arrested near the Afghan-Pakistani border. Pakistan's police handed him over the U.S., who in turn transferred him to the Guantamo Detention camp in Cuba. He was detained there for more than two years before being released to Sweden.
Secret US documents that Wikileaks have made available to the Swedish tabloid Expressen reveal that the US transfered Ghezali to Guantamo to serve as an information source. They wanted him "to provide general-to-specific information on the cultural, religious, and ethnic recruitment of Muslim foreign nationals attending the Haj in Saudi Arabia." (The Haj is the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.)
"These documents prove what my client has been stating all the time," says Anton Strand, Ghezali's lawyer, to Radio Sweden, "that he has never been a suspect of crime and he has never been accused of any kind of criminal activity."
But the secret papers also claim that Ghezali was captured with a number of admitted Al-Qaida members and claim that Ghezali, himself, might belong to the terrorist network.
Also, in 2009, Swedish media reported that Ghezali was arrested again in Pakistan with three other Swedes for suspected of being involved with Al Qaida, as they were allegedly on their way to Waziristan, known for being a hotbed of Islamic extremism. One of these Swedes was also later arrested for allegedly planning a terrorist attack against a Danish newspaper.
But Ghezali's lawyer says you shouldn't believe everything you read.
"There's been lots of untrue reports about Mehdi Ghezali," says Strand. "So, we have to be very very clear about what is fact and what is speculation in the Swedish press."
Strand adds that he's not familiar with these associations, and even if these allegations were true, they wouldn't be enough to incriminate someone.
Strand says that for now, it's too early to say whether the Wikileaks documents will be used for further legal action.
The documents also reveal that US authorities recommended that Ghezali be kept in detention after being released from Guantanamo, because, they said, he could pose a threat to the US, its interests and its allies. But Sweden refused to keep him in custody, since the country didn't see that he had committed any crime.
"Hopefully, the Swedish authorities will provide us with all information about why Mehdi Ghezali has been surveilled during the last years in Sweden, because the reasons given in these documents for further detention are unimpressive . . . They're not worth calling evidence at all, and they would never hold up in any court where the rule of law applies."
His lawyer says that during the first years that he was back in Sweden, the Swedish authorities kept watch over him.
According to the tabloids, Ghezali is currently living in Örebro with his wife and kids.
"It's maybe good that the truth is coming out, I don't know . . . but it is not the most important thing right now. I just want to go on with my life," said Ghezali to Expressen.
In January 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama gave the order to close the prison at Guantanamo, but a number of obstacles – from foreign countries not wanting to take the detainees to U.S. lawmakers refusing to build a replacement detention camp on U.S. soil – prevented that from happening. Some 170 detainees are still reportedly being held there.