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Ex-Gitmo prisoner wants Albania to let him leave

By Llazar Semini
Associated Press / March 27, 2012
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TIRANA, Albania—An Egyptian who spent years in U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay before being resettled in Albania said Tuesday that he wants to return to live in his native country, but that the Albanians won't let him.

Sherif El Meshad, 35, said authorities in his host country have not explained why he and his Albanian wife and child cannot leave Albania. He said the Egyptian embassy has assured Albania that he won't face prosecution or discrimination if he returns. Embassy officials were not available to confirm that.

"I am innocent by law from Guantanamo and there is no pending case for me in Egypt. I would like the Albanian government to understand my right for a normal life back in Egypt too now that the (Hosni) Mubarak regime has fallen," he said.

Albanian Interior Ministry spokesman Fatmir Konja said he had no comment on the case.

El Meshad was seized in Afghanistan and held for eight years at the U.S. military base in Cuba on suspicion of terrorism before being cleared of any charges and resettled in Albania two years ago. He lives in the capital, Tirana, where he held a press conference Tuesday to describe his situation.

Katie Taylor, a case worker from the British legal charity Reprieve who is assisting El Meshad, said she would keep talking with Albanian and Egyptian authorities. "It's time to let him go home," she said.

Although Albania has not said why El Meshad cannot travel to Egypt, Taylor said Guantanamo Bay is still a "political issue" in the United States and that Tirana may fear harming its close ties with Washington if it grants El Meshad's request.

Albania has accepted 11 former Guantanamo prisoners since 2006 -- none of them Albanians. Taylor said other countries such as Italy, Slovakia and Georgia have let many of their resettled ex-Guantanamo detainees go back home.

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