July 24, 2006

Ex-Guantanamo Spaniard cleared by supreme court

MADRID (Reuters) - A Spanish man held in Guantanamo Bay and
then jailed for six years in Spain for membership of al Qaeda
was cleared by Spain's Supreme Court on Monday on grounds there
was a lack of evidence against him.

The court ordered the immediate release of Hamed
Abderrahaman Ahmad, known in Spain as "the Spanish Taliban,"
after he spent two years at the Guantanamo U.S. naval base
before being handed over to Spain in 2005 and convicted.

Spain's High Court ruled last October that Ahmad, a
31-year-old from the Spanish enclave of Ceuta in North Africa,
had been recruited by al Qaeda and sent to Afghanistan to
receive training.

The Supreme Court said the High Court had not considered
Ahmad "innocent until proven guilty" and used evidence
collected at Guantanamo that "should be declared totally void
and, as such, non-existent."

"It is entirely remiss in its role of providing evidence,"
the Supreme Court said of the High Court.

The Supreme Court said the detention of hundreds of
prisoners at Guantanamo Bay without charges and in judicial
"limbo" was impossible to justify on either legal or political

In February 2004, Ahmad became the first prisoner at
Guantanamo to be handed over to a foreign country for
prosecution when the United States agreed to a Spanish
extradition request.

In the High Court case, prosecutors said Ahmad had traveled
to Afghanistan in August 2001 to fight for the Taliban
government and received religious and military training.

With the threat of a U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, after
the September 11 attacks, Ahmad left the country and was
arrested by Pakistani soldiers who handed him over to U.S.
authorities, prosecutors said.

"Neither the motivation the subject had to travel to
Afghanistan, nor the activities he carried out, justifies the
verdict passed by the High Court," the Supreme Court ruling