Rights watchdog urges govt to return last Egyptian from Guantanamo

An Egyptian rights watchdog on Tuesday called on Egypt’s military rulers and the Parliament to adopt immediate measures to facilitate the release of the last Egyptian detainee in the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights said in a statement that Tareq Mahmoud Ahmed al-Sawah has been detained in Guantanamo for almost 10 years without a trial.

The rights watchdog added that Parliament should hold the prime and foreign ministers and other state officials accountable for what it called a failure to stand up for an Egyptian citizen who was oppressed for more than a decade.

Sawah is a dual Egyptian-Bosnian citizen born in Alexandria in 1957.

“As of March 6, 2012, he has been held at Guantanamo for nine years, 10 months. He has been charged with war crimes,” the New York Times said in its feature on the detainees held at Guantanamo Bay prison since 2002. 

Information gathered by British journalist Andy Worthington, an expert on Guantanamo Bay, said Sawah "is a veteran of the Bosnian conflict, who had married a local woman and had then traveled to Afghanistan, where he became an explosives expert.”

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights said Sawah is the only Egyptian remaining in Guantanamo after Egyptian authorities managed to release all others over the years.

He has not been convicted in any criminal case in Egypt or the US, the watchdog said.

No charges were brought against Sawah until December 2008, when he was charged with conspiring for Al-Qaeda and funding terrorist activities.

Over more than three years, investigators failed to present any evidence to prove the charges, and Sawah was never put on trial.

Last week, US military authorities dropped the charges brought against Sawah, which could help facilitate his return to Egypt.

The organization said Sawah, as well as his family and lawyer, have issued several calls to the Egyptian government to help in returning him.

“Egyptian government officials cannot claim that they are unaware of the oppression to which Sawah is subjected,” said Hossam Bahgat, the head of the organization.

He said an Egyptian security delegation visited Sawah in Guantanamo a few years ago to question him and obtain information.

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