LONDON (AP) – One of three British residents newly returned from the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay was due to appear before a court Thursday to face possible extradition to Spain for alleged terrorism offenses, police said.
Jamil el-Banna, 45, of Jordan, flew back to Britain under police guard late Wednesday, five years after he was seized in Gambia and handed over to U.S. authorities. His lawyer, Zachary Katznelson, said el-Banna is accused in Spain of associating with terrorist suspects, but that the allegation is not connected to the 2004 Madrid bombings.
Fellow detainees Libyan-born Omar Deghayes, 38, and Abdennour Sameur, 34, of Algeria, arrived back with el-Banna at Luton airport, north of London. The two were arrested separately on suspicion of preparing or instigating terrorism, London’s Metropolitan Police said.
Deghayes was also named in a Spanish extradition request issued in 2003, but London police said no extradition warrant has been served. His brother, Taher, said the news meant another delay to a long-awaited reunion. “We were expecting to see him today, but now we don’t know. It’s a little bit of torture for us,” he told The Associated Press.
Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon called for the indictment of el-Banna and Deghayes in September 2003 as part of an investigation of an alleged al-Qaeda cell in Spain.
Garzon said they are suspected of links to Imad Yarkas, the alleged head of an al-Qaeda cell in Spain that was broken up in 2001. Yarkas was acquitted at a 2005 trial of helping plot the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States. But he was convicted of a lesser terrorism charge and is serving a 12-year prison term in Spain. “On arrival in the country that is his home, Jamil el-Banna, exonerated entirely by the Americans, is told that the U.K. is now actively assisting another government to snatch him once again,” said lawyer Gareth Peirce. She said el-Banna had not yet seen his wife or children one of whom was born after his detention in 2002.
“Five children are sitting in that house waiting, one of whom has never seen their father. It is absolutely outrageous,” said Clive Stafford Smith, of legal charity Reprieve. He said Deghayes may also face extradition to Spain and a court hearing later Thursday. Police said Deghayes is not currently due to face a court.
Britain’s Home Office said that officials are also reviewing the immigration status of the former detainees. The men had been held without charge or trial at Guantanamo for more than four years and were released following an appeal to the United States by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. His predecessor, Tony Blair, declined to intervene on behalf of British residents held at the detention camp.
The United States refused to release two other British residents, Saudi-born Shaker Aamer and Ethiopian national Binyam Mohamed, and they will remain at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, Foreign Secretary David Miliband said last week.
Five British citizens were freed from Guantanamo in March 2004 and four in January 2005, according to Britain’s Foreign Office.
In April, another British resident, 37-year-old Iraqi national Bisher al-Rawi, was released from the camp after five years in detention. British officials took up his case after it was disclosed he had assisted MI5, Britain’s domestic spy agency.
El-Banna was arrested with al-Rawi by Gambian authorities in November 2002 and transferred to U.S. detention.