Monday 19 March 2018

Morocco acquits ex-Guantanamo detainee

Morocco acquits ex-Guantanamo detainee
(AFP 02/17/18)

Morocco has acquitted a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, held without charge by the US military for over 13 years, of "undermining state security", his lawyer said Friday.

Yunis Chekkouri was arrested by Pakistani forces in late December 2001 with a group of several dozen alleged fighters who had fled the Tora Bora cave complex in eastern Afghanistan, a stronghold of the Taliban and its Al-Qaeda allies.

The following year he was flown to the Guantanamo Bay military prison, where he was locked up for over 13 years but never charged.

In September 2015, Chekkouri was released and sent back home where the authorities put him on trial for "undermining state security".

He was acquitted on Thursday of any wrongdoing, his lawyer Khalil Idrissi told AFP. The official MAP news agency confirmed, citing the court.

"The mistake has been acknowledged... the charges against him were contradictory and had no logic to them," Idrissi said.

Chekkouri, who had repeatedly denied the accusations against him, told AFP after the verdict: "The nightmare is over."

In May last year, Chekkouri, who has said he travelled to Afghanistan on a "humanitarian" mission, was sentenced to five years in prison but he appealed.

"The verdict was unfair. I knew that I would be proven innocent," he told AFP.

"I can now say I have turned the page on Guantanamo," he said, calling it a "cruel prison" where he said detainees are submitted "every day to interrogations, physical and psychological tortures".

Under former US president George W. Bush, the US military built a prison camp on Guantanamo Bay, located on an American naval base on the eastern tip of Cuba, in the months following the US-led invasion of Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

In January, US President Donald Trump announced he would keep the detention facility open, breaking from his predecessor Barack Obama's efforts to shutter it.

Guantanamo, once home to 780 prisoners detained for their alleged links to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, now holds 41 detainees.

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