Cablegate: Two Ex-Gtmo Detainees Charged with Terrorist

Published: Mon 14 Mar 2005 05:05 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
SS E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 PARIS 001699
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/13/2015
REF: A. PARIS 1610
ONS 1.4 B/D
1. (S) Summary and comment: Ridouane Khalid and Khaled Ben
Mustafa, two of the three ex-Guantanamo (GTMO) detainees
returned to French custody on March 7, were formally placed
under investigation on "terrorist conspiracy" charges March
11 by terrorism investigating judges Jean-Louis Bruguiere and
Jean-Francois Ricard. Later that evening, a "liberty and
detention" judge upheld the terrorism judges' request that
Ben Mustafa be sent to pretrial detention. Curiously, a few
hours later on March 12, the same "liberty and detention"
judge examined Ridouane Khalid's case and ordered him
released pending trial. It is highly likely that the office
of the Paris Prosecutor will appeal the judge's decision, but
for the time being Khalid remains released on bail. The
Khalid decision is the first setback for Judges Bruguiere and
Ricard as they work on the "French detainees in Guantanamo"
dossier. For the first time in this dossier, a defense
lawyer won a victory for his client, a fact that would
embolden the lawyers for the other five detainees still in
pretrial detention. When reached March 14, Ricard (strictly
protect throughout) told Poloff that he was not optimistic
regarding the dossier. He said the "liberty and detention"
judge's decision could impact the continued detention of the
other five detainees. End summary and comment.
2. (S) Poloff spoke with Judges Bruguiere and Ricard on March
10 regarding the three ex-GTMO detainees returned to French
custody on Monday, March 7. They confirmed that on March 11,
they would charge Ridouane Khalid and Khaled Ben Mustafa with
"terrorist conspiracy," which carries with it a maximum
sentence of 10 years. They also revealed that the cases
against the two would be more difficult than for the four
original detainees returned to France in the summer of 2004.
Bruguiere said that the DST had not uncovered any substantial
additional information during the interrogation of Khalid and
Ben Mustafa, which contrasts with the new information they
had garnered from the original four detainees during their
initial interrogation. Ricard confirmed this, and added that
both Khalid and Ben Mustafa did not have substantial records
of involvement in Afghanistan, in contrast to the original
four. Regarding Ben Mustafa, Ricard said they had
comparatively little information, due largely to the fact
that Ben Mustafa had "barely enough time to set down his
suitcase in Afghanistan before 9/11." The French have a
little more on Khalid, but only because he was known to
French services as being active in underground Islamist
circles in Paris as far back as 1998. For these reasons,
both judges said they personally considered the cases against
Khalid and Ben Mustafa more difficult to prosecute.
3. (S) Regarding the third detainee, Mustaq Ali Patel,
Bruguiere confirmed March 10 that the French had no
derogatory information against him, and for this reason, he
was released on March 9 (reftel A). He also said that Patel
has severe mental and physical problems, and Bruguiere
believed these problems had been exacerbated during Patel's
multi-year imprisonment in Guantanamo.
4. (S) Following the formal announcement of an investigation,
Khalid and Ben Mustafa were brought before a "liberty and
detention" judge whose role is to determine whether or not
the defendant should be released on bail pending the trial or
remanded to pretrial detention. Ben Mustafa went first and
the judge ruled in favor of Bruguiere and Ricard's requests
that he be kept in pretrial detention. Khalid went before
the same judge a few hours later and, surprisingly, given the
similarity of the cases against the defendants, the judge
ordered Khalid released pending trial. According to the
Saturday (March 12) edition of Le Monde newspaper, the judge
said Khalid's long detention in Guantanamo and the fact that
the other five ex-GTMO detainees were in pretrial detention
minimized Khalid's flight risk.
5. (S) Judge Ricard's reaction March 14 reflected his
surprise with the decision; "Don't ask me for explanations
(for the judge's decision) because I don't have any. The
(liberty and detention) judge's reasoning makes no sense."
Ricard said he had been unsure of the two cases against
Khalid and Ben Mustafa, but expected nonetheless that the
judge would either approve the detention of both or reject
the detention of both. Ricard said there were few
differences in the cases against Khalid and Ben Mustafa.
However, he speculated that the following three issues may
have influenced the judge to order Khalid's release: 1)
Khalid's lawyer, Paul-Albert Iweins, is a former president of
the Paris Bar and as such, is extremely skilled and
reputable. This probably had a significant influence on the
"liberty and detention" judge, said Ricard. 2) Khalid is
hepatitis-C positive and this, combined with other more minor
medical issues, may have decreased the judge's fear that
Khalid was a flight risk; and 3) Khalid was less talkative
during the DST's interrogation, said Ricard, which made
compiling a dossier against him significantly more difficult.
6. (S) Moving forward, Ricard said it was probable that the
Paris Prosecutor's office, upon recommendation of the
terrorism investigating judges, would appeal Khalid's release
this week. In addition, Ben Mustafa's lawyer has filed two
separate appeals for his release, one of which will be heard
this week, and the other shortly thereafter. Ricard said the
appeals were based largely on the fact that the cases against
Ben Mustafa and Khalid were similar. The lawyer will argue,
said Ricard, that if Khalid was released, Ben Mustafa must be
released as well. Ricard said that the other four ex-GTMO
detainees in pretrial detention since summer 2004 would
undoubtedly resubmit petitions for their release based on the
success of Khalid's lawyer.
7. (S) Comment: In our dealings with Ricard and Bruguiere on
the Guantanamo detainees issue, Ricard has consistently
evinced more uncertainty and his reaction to this first
setback demonstrates that. The fact that the "liberty and
detention" judge allowed bail for one defendant and not the
other suggests that incarceration in Guantanamo was not a
decisive factor in deciding pretrial detention. Ricard and
Bruguiere remain determined to pursue charges against six of
the seven GTMO detainees, although there is little doubt that
their defense lawyers will redouble their efforts to obtain
bail for the other detainees as a result of the "liberty and
detention" judge's decision. End comment.
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