Italy deported a Tunisian national and former Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Wednesday for his connections to an extremist group that had planned various acts of terrorism in the country. Accompanied by Italian officials, Abdel Ben Mabrouk [NYT materials] was taken by plane to his native country under an agreement with Tunisian diplomats [AP report] brokered in Rome. Mabrouk was transferred to Italy in 2009 as part of US efforts to shut down the prison at Guantanamo, where he spent eight years as a suspected terrorist after being captured in Afghanistan in 2001. Having lived in Italy before traveling to Afghanistan, Mabrouk was returned to the Italian government, which imposed a two-year suspended sentence [JURIST report] for terrorist association. The judge based the sentence on recommendations from Mabrouk's lawyer and prosecutor Armando Spataro, finding that Mabrouk's time served at Guantanamo and the year he spent in an Italian prison were sufficient punishment. Italian intelligence broke up the group with which Mabrouk was associated after thwarting several of its terrorist plots, including a plan to blow up the famous Milan Cathedral with a car packed with explosives.
The continued operation of Guantanamo Bay remains controversial. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] criticized US President Barack Obama in January for failing to shut down the facility, as Obama's stated desire to close the Guantanamo prison [JURIST reports] has faced heavy opposition in Congress. Earlier in January, Obama signed a bill barring the transfer of Guantanamo detainees [JURIST report] to the US for trial. The legislation authorized funding for defense interests abroad, military construction and national security-related energy programs and barred the use of funds to transfer detainees into the US and limited funds available for transfers to foreign countries. The number of detainees at Guantanamo has been significantly reduced as the administration continues to transfer detainees to a growing list of countries including Germany, Italy, Spain, Maldives, Georgia, Albania, Latvia, Switzerland, Slovakia, Somaliland, Palau, Belgium, Afghanistan and Bermuda [JURIST reports].