France overturns 5 terrorist convictions

(HH here:Let us be completely clear on what happened. In 2001 and 2002 five French citizens were captured in Afghanistan by U.S. forces. In 2004 France asked for their native son’s to be returned from prison in Guantanamo and in 2007 they were convicted of terrorist conspiracy charges. NOW, in 2009 all five have had their convictions reversed due to how the evidence against them was collected. i.e. in the field by spooks instead of cops. But please note none of them was release due to this decision! All had already been given “time served” and were FREE!! Yep, in France Conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism only buys your 7 to 8 years!! A fellow can get more than that for selling a dime bag of heroin in Paris!!!! Read the whole thing by clicking on the post title.)

By Steven Erlanger Published: February 24, 2009

PARIS: A French appeals court on Tuesday overturned terrorist conspiracy convictions of five former inmates of the Guantánamo prison camp who were tried and convicted in 2007, after they had been returned to France.

The court ruled that testimony gathered by French intelligence officials in interrogations at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, violated rules for permissible evidence and that there was no other proof of wrongdoing.

None of the men, captured in Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002, is currently in jail, having been given time off for time already served.

The case is also interesting because it involves Mourad Benchellali, now 26, a member of a family with numerous other connections to jihadist violence. His older brother, Menad Benchellali, was arrested in 2002 on suspicion of planning to bomb Russian targets, including the Russian Embassy in Paris, as a response to the war in Chechnya. He was convicted in 2006 and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Their father, Chellali Benchellali, a Muslim cleric from a suburb of Lyon, was arrested in connection with the plot to avenge Russia’s crackdown in Chechnya. He had previously gone to Bosnia to help Muslims in the civil war there. He was given an 18-month suspended sentence; his wife, Hafsa, was given a two-year suspended sentence, and another son, Hafed, was sentenced to four years in prison.

He and other French detainees were returned to France in 2004 and 2005 following pressure from President Jacques Chirac, who promised that “justice will be done.” They were immediately arrested; their trial produced the 2007 conviction that was overturned on Tuesday. During the trial, the men said that they had spent time in Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan but had never used their new combat skills.

In addition to Benchellali, the others cleared were Brahim Yadel, 37, Nizar Sassi, 27, Khaled Ben Mustapha, 35, and Redouane Khalid, 39.

The court found, according to lawyers for the men, that the French DST counterintelligence service could not serve both as an espionage agency and a judicial police service. Paul-Albert Iwens, Khalid’s lawyer, told Reuters the court refused “to let it be said that a police agency could question people detained on foreign territory in conditions that go against international conventions.”

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