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France court reverses terrorism convictions of former Guantanamo detainees

[JURIST] A Paris appeals court on Tuesday overturned the 2007 terrorism convictions of five French citizens who had been questioned by French officials while detained at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive]. The court held that counter-terrorism agents from the French national security service DST [official website, in French] could not gather intelligence and conduct a criminal investigation at the same time. The defendants, Brahim Yadel, Mourad Benchellali, Nizar Sassi, Khaled ben Mustapha and Redouane Khalid, had been convicted [JURIST report] of "criminal association with a terrorist enterprise" and sentenced to one year in prison. Prosecutors plan to appeal [AP report] the ruling to France's Court of Cassation [official website, in French].

The court's ruling had been postponed in January, after US President Barack Obama ordered the closure of the Guantanamo detention center [JURIST reports]. France charged the defendants [JURIST report] in April 2006, and during their original September 2006 trial, the judge refused to deliver a verdict [JURIST report], explaining that he wanted to know more about the intelligence-gathering mission in which agents interviewed the men at Guantanamo. The French government at first failed to disclose the meetings [JURIST report], which came to light during the retrial [JURIST report] when a French diplomatic telegram published in the Liberation daily referred to at least two such interviews.

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