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22 December 2007

Mixed blessings for British victims of US justice system abuses and failures

The family of Jamil el Banna, photo from Guardian Unlimited

There are breaking stories in two on-going sagas of British residents/citizens caught in the web of the US courts.
First, the Guantanamo four: the British passport-holding inmates of Guantanamo were returned to Britain some time ago, but four remaining detainees were British residents, though not citizens, some with very strong ties to Britain, such as close family who are citizens. The Blair government, in its wisdom, probably sacrificed them in order to get a swifter and more favourable deal for the passport-holders. Or something, who knows. I have been following this story intensely since the first cages were erected at "Camp X-ray" and the whole business just sickens me.
In any case, three of the four have been returned to the UK just this week: Abdennour Samuer, Omar Deghayes and Jamil el-Banna. (El-Banna is 45, but looks at least 60 in his picture.) Although Samuer was released with no further questions (all three men may be subjected to control orders at some time in the near future if they choose to remain in the UK), Deghayes and el-Banna were arrested in the UK before they got a chance to see their families who were left waiting and uninformed. Apparently it is Spain who is the culprit now, alleging that the two were members of a Spanish cell of al Qaida, although there is very little if any evidence of this. One piece of evidence is a video-tape of Deghayes training men in Afghanistan, but it has been shown conclusively that the named person is not him. Both men were finally released on bail and reunited with their families yesterday.
The other story concerns a British citizen with dual US citizenship who has been on death row most of his adult life and just hours from execution on several occasions. It is now generally conceded that he is completely innocent, but due to the intricacies of the case, he had to enter a plea bargain of no-contest to reduced charges to be released from prison. Kenny Richey will not be home for Christmas after all, due to falling ill with heart disease just as he was about to enter the plea bargain that would automatically lead to his release. He has had severely deteriorating health during his time on death row, not surprisingly.

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