Page last updated at 23:26 GMT, Thursday, 20 December 2007

Guantanamo detainees out on bail

Jamil El-Banna
Mr El-Banna could be extradited to Spain to face terror allegations

Two UK residents released by the US from Guantanamo Bay have been released on bail after appearing in court under Spanish extradition warrants.

Magistrates are considering extraditing Jamil El-Banna and Omar Deghayes to Spain to face terror allegations.

The men, accused of being al-Qaeda members in Madrid, will be tagged and placed under curfew.

Abdenour Samuer, who was also held at Guantanamo, was arrested and held in custody but released without charge.

He was released from Paddington Green police station.

Feeling 'tired'

Following his release, Mr El-Banna, a father of five, said in a statement: "Thank you very much everybody, my solicitor, the British people, the British government for your help.

"I'm tired. I want to go home and see my children."

Mr El-Banna, 45, was detained under port and border controls and arrested on Thursday morning after questioning at a Dunstable police station.

He appeared at the City of Westminster Magistrates' Court in central London looking dishevelled and bewildered.

To do this when they are so close to home and their families, I think, is reprehensible
Clive Stafford Smith
Lawyer for the men

Senior district judge Timothy Workman granted him bail of £50,000.

Appearing later at the court, Mr Deghayes was also granted bail of £50,000.

He said later in a statement: "I am very, very happy to be home. I am very grateful to everybody who has helped me.

"I would have been happier if everybody in Guantanamo were released and that ugly, bad place was closed down if not demolished.

"I need some rest, but I will be very happy to speak to everybody in the media to help other people to be released."

The actress and human rights campaigner Vanessa Redgrave, who put forward part of Mr El-Banna's surety, said it had been a "profound honour" to be able to help.

She said: "I'm glad I'm alive to be able to do this. Guantanamo Bay is a concentration camp. It's a disgrace that these men have been kept there all these years, and today Jamil will be back home."

As part of his bail conditions, Mr El-Banna must obey a curfew, live at his home in Dollis Hill, north London, and wear an electronic tag.

'Terrorist propaganda'

The court heard as a member of the Islamic Alliance, Mr El-Banna had allegedly helped to recruit people to terrorist training camps and distributed terrorist propaganda between 1996 and 2001.

His lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald QC, said there would be massive issues as to the lapse of time over extradition and his human rights.

Protesters against his detention and family members gathered outside court.

Among them was Liberal Democrat Sarah Teather, MP for Mr El-Banna, who described Spain's move as "extremely distasteful and very insensitive".

Sabah, the wife of Jamil El-Banna
Mr El-Banna is waiting to be reunited with his family

Earlier, Clive Stafford Smith, another of Mr El-Banna's lawyers, accused the government of lying about the three men's release.

"To do this when they are so close to home and their families, I think, is reprehensible," he said.

"It would have been fine if that was what they [the government] had told us was going to happen. I have no problem with them questioning my clients but they lied."

He said he had previously tried to encourage a Spanish extradition request as a means of getting the men out of Guantanamo, but said the authorities in Madrid had never showed any interest.

"For quite a long time, we tried to get the Spanish to demand their release because we thought it was an elegant way to get them out of Guantanamo. The Spanish weren't interested," he told BBC Two's Newsnight.

Mr El-Banna first came to the security services' attention because he knew Abu Qatada, a radical cleric, described as a "key UK figure" in al-Qaeda related terror activity.

'Mistaken identity'

Mr Deghayes, 38, and Mr Samuer, 34, were arrested on board an aircraft shortly after it arrived from Guantanamo.

Mr Stafford Smith said Mr Deghayes had been detained in Guantanamo accused of committing terrorist acts against the United States, after Spanish intelligence services obtained a video.

The Chechen terrorist training video purports to show Mr Deghayes, but a BBC Newsnight investigation revealed the man in question was actually Abu Walid, a Saudi who is now dead.

Mr Stafford Smith told Newsnight that the Spanish case was based on false evidence and the situation was "dismaying".

"The idea now that they want to use this evidence we've proved to be false to take them for further detention is very worrying," he added.

Both Mr El-Banna and Mr Deghayes were among four Guantanamo detainees named in December 2003 by Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon, over alleged al-Qaeda links.

Judge Garzon recommended that all four stand trial in Spain, but only two suspects - a Moroccan man and a Spanish national - were extradited. Both were cleared of wrongdoing.

American accusations

The Home Office agreed the release of the three men with the US on 10 December following intensive negotiations.

Another freed UK resident, Shaker Abdur-Raheem Aamer, is expected to return to his native Saudi Arabia.

A fifth UK resident, Ethiopian Binyam Mohammed, will remain at Guantanamo.

The Pentagon insists that all five of the British residents are dangerous.

The Americans accused Palestinian Mr El-Banna of being an al-Qaeda recruiter and financier, Libyan Mr Deghayes of associating with al-Qaeda, and Algerian Mr Samuer of being trained for combat in Afghanistan.

About 300 prisoners are held at Guantanamo Bay, set up at a US naval base in Cuba in early 2002 after the invasion of Afghanistan.

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Jamil El-Banna leaving court




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