Paris court overturns detainee convictions
Says French agents lacked authority
PARIS - An appeals court yesterday overturned the terrorism convictions of five former detainees at Guantanamo, ruling that French police agents were out of line in questioning them at the US prison camp.
France is among the few Western countries to prosecute nationals who have returned home from Guantanamo - and the ruling marks the latest high-profile foreign disavowal of the secretive center that President Obama's administration wants to shut for good.
The appeals court ruled that agents from the French counterterrorism agency
State prosecutors said they would appeal to the highest French court, the Court of Cassation.
The men, who were arrested in Afghanistan in 2001, each spent a total of 2 1/2 to 3 years in custody at Guantanamo and in France, to which they were repatriated in 2004 and 2005.
Legal specialists said the ruling could send a message to any future US court that prosecutes Guantanamo inmates by showing how a foreign court feels about the admissibility of evidence taken from interrogations there. "I hope that American courts are brave enough to demand that the government come forward with the records about the torture and coercion that was conducted by our intelligence agencies," said Martha Rayner, a law professor at Fordham University, by telephone from New York. She said her office represents two Guantanamo inmates.
Judith Sunderland, a Human Rights Watch researcher for Europe and central Asia who specializes in counterterrorism, said the ruling could provide lessons about how intelligence information in such cases can be used in court. "Here we have the court of appeal taking a clear stance against improperly acquired intelligence information being used in court proceedings," she said by phone. "That is clearly a very, very positive step."
All seven French citizens who were at Guantanamo were sent home in 2004 and 2005.