By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 2/22/2006 | 1:19 pm
The Moroccan judicial police has ended its probe into the case of the three former Guantanamo detainees, who were transferred back to Morocco, just after the visit of the US FBI head to the Maghreb region, reported the Moroccan daily, al-Alam.
The United States handed over to Morocco, on Feb. 8, three suspected Islamic militants held at its Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.
The three Moroccan men, Najib Lahssini, Mohamed Souleimani Laalami and Mohamed Ouali, were being detained in Casablanca for further questioning by an investigating judge, the official news agency MAP reported.
The extradition was announced two days after US Federal Bureau of Investigation head Robert Mueller held talks with King Mohammed on security cooperation between Rabat and Washington.
Mueller, who toured the North African region to cement the US anti-terror drive, also met Morocco's top security chiefs.
After the pre-Sentence Investigation, the investigating judge is expected to decide soon on whether to arrest them, released them under the supervision of the criminal justice, or close the case.
The United States sent five Moroccan detainees home from Guantanamo in 2004, but the five have since been in and out of detention and questioning by police over their suspected links with radical Islamist cells.
Mohamed Mazouz and Brahim Benchekroun, two of the five former detainees were arrested in connection with a terrorist structure in Morocco, which included 17 people, related to al Qaeda network and accused of recruiting Mujahideen to go to Iraq.
The three others were granted bail in December 2004: Abdallah Tabarak, 49, suspected of serving as a bodyguard for Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Sudan and Afghanistan; Mohamed Ouzar; and Redouane Chekkouri.
Local lawyers and human rights groups say more than 20 Moroccans are still held in Guanatanamo.
The US military said earlier it extradited 11 Guantanamo detainees; three to Morocco, one to Uganda and seven to Afghanistan.
UN urges Guantanamo close down
A few days ago, a group of top UN human rights experts urged the United States to close its Guantanamo Bay detention centre "without further delay" because it violates key fundamentals of international law including the prohibition of torture.
In a 40-page report, five UN special envoys said the United States was violating a host of human rights, including a ban on torture, arbitrary detention and the right to a fair trial.
The report disputes the US definition of some 500 detainees at the naval base on Cuba as "enemy combatants" and argues that President Bush's War on Terror has no basis in international law.
However, Washington, which denies that Guantanamo inmates are mistreated or that international laws are being broken, accused the UN investigators of acting like prosecution lawyers.
The United States denies that most of the rights, laid down in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Washington is a signatory, apply to Guantanamo Bay.
The New York Times reported on Wednesday that the military commander responsible for the American detention center at Guantanamo Bay, confirmed Tuesday that officials there last month turned to more aggressive methods to deter prisoners who were carrying out long-term hunger strikes to protest their incarceration.
The commander, Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, head of the US Southern Command, said soldiers at Guantánamo began strapping some of the detainees into "restraint chairs" to force-feed them and isolate them from one another after finding that some were deliberately vomiting or siphoning out the liquid they had been fed.
Military officials have also said the tough measures were necessary to keep detainees from dying. But while many of the strikers lost between 15 and 20 % of their normal body weight, only a few were thought to be in immediate medical danger.
The detainees' lawyers and several human rights groups have assailed the new methods used against the hunger strikers as inhumane, and as unjustified by the reported medical condition of the prisoners.
Despite mounting pressure from the international community, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld blasted UN Secretary General Kofi Annan as "just flat wrong" in calling for the closure of the military-run detention center at Guantanamo Bay.
"We shouldn't close Guantanamo," he said. "We have several hundreds of terrorists, bad people, people if they went back out on the field would try to kill Americans."
The United States holds at the base in Guantanamo about 500 people on suspicion of links to al Qaeda or Afghanistan's ousted Taliban government . It has filed charges against 10 of the detainees.
US faces allegations of clandestine prisons in Europe and elsewhere
The United States is currently facing the allegations, surfaced last November, that US agents interrogated key al-Qaeda suspects at clandestine prisons in Eastern Europe and transported some suspects to other countries via Europe.
The Council of Europe, which is investigating these allegations, released a report which stated that more than 100 terror suspects may have been transferred to countries where they faced torture or ill treatment in recent years.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch. (HRW) identified Romania and Poland as possible sites of secret US-run detention facilities. Both countries have denied involvement. Swiss Senator Dick Marty said there was no formal evidence so far of the existence of clandestine detention centers in Romania or Poland as alleged by HRW.
Recently, the UK-based paper, The Sunday Times, and the Belgian daily, Le Soir, has reported on a US would-be plan to build a secret prison in Morocco on behalf of the American intelligence Agency (CIA), but Morocco categorically denied the stories run by the two papers.
The Sunday Times reported that the US is helping Morocco to build a new interrogation and detention facility for al-Qaeda suspects near its capital, Rabat, quoting western intelligence sources. It also reported that the building was under way at Ain Aouda, above a wooded gorge south of Rabat's diplomatic district.
Meanwhile, the Belgian daily, Le Soir, claims that the military base of Ben Guerir, about 60 km north of Marrakech (southern Morocco), will also be a potential secret detention devoted to terrorists linked to al-Qaeda.
“The stories, published by the British and Belgian papers respectively on February 12 and 13, are "pure allegations, devoid of any basis," said a release of the Moroccan Ministry of Interior.
Addressing the message to the national and international public opinion, the ministry's release recalled that Morocco, in its war against terrorism, respects the state of law and the rights and civil liberties of individuals and groups, in conformity with the international human rights code.
The release stressed that the Moroccan authorities, which are profoundly shocked and outraged at these allegations, reserve the right to undertake all the necessary measures to restore the complete truth."
The publication of the said allegations coincided with the visits of US FBI director, Robert Mueller, and the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, to Morocco, who came to discuss security cooperation in the fight against terrorism.