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Retrial of six former Guantanamo detainees begins in France

[JURIST] The retrial of six Frenchmen who were released from the US detention center in Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] began Monday in Paris. The six stand accused of attending combat training at an al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan. France freed five of the suspects after their repatriation to France from Guantanamo in July 2004 and March 2005 [BBC reports]. The prosecution alleges that the six suspects were recruited by Rachid Boukhalfa, an Algerian held in a British prison also known as Abu Doha. France formally charged the six defendants [JURIST report] in April 2006. During the original September 2006 trial, the judge refused to deliver a verdict [JURIST report], instead saying that he wanted to know more about a French intelligence-gathering mission in which French agents had interviewed the six men while still at Guantanamo. The French government at first failed to disclose the meetings [JURIST report], a fact that could have rendered the case invalid.

France said that the agents visited the detainees for the administrative purposes of identifying the French citizens and generally assessing their situation. The French Foreign Ministry [official website] said in an official statement [text, in French] that it never made a secret out of intelligence visits to Guantanamo between 2002 and 2004, adding that the agents were also gathering information for France to help prevent terrorism. A French diplomatic telegram published in the Liberation daily referred to intelligence agents who conducted interviews with the suspects at least twice while at Guantanamo [Liberation report, in French]. The prosecution in the Paris trial failed to disclose the interviews, however, and defense lawyers said the encounters violated their clients' rights because no lawyer was present when they took place. AFP has more.

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