France Turns Down Guantánamo Prisoner Nabil Hadjarab’s Appeal for Asylum


Yesterday, as I explained here, cleared Guantánamo prisoner Nabil Hadjarab wrote a letter to the French President Nicolas Sarkozy, beseeching the President to offer him a home in France, where he has extended family, and where he lived as a child. However, in a horribly swift response to the letter, AFP reports that the foreign ministry has already turned down his request.

Spokeswoman Christine Fages said, “It is not planned that France will receive a third detainee. France has already welcomed onto its soil two former Guantánamo detainees. In 2009, these two men, Lakhdar Boumediene and Saber Lahmar, were authorised to come and live in France.”

The foreign ministry failed to acknowledge that neither of these men had previous connections to France, and that, although President Sarkozy’s acceptance of Lakhdar Boumediene and Saber Lahmar was a welcome humanitarian gesture, it could be construed as one designed to secure favorable publicity, given that the plight of both men was particularly newsworthy. In contrast, Nabil Hadjarab’s story has been largely ignored in the media, even though he has family members in France who are more than willing to take him in and to help him adjust to life after Guantánamo.

In July, as AFP explained, French Communist MP André Gerin “urged Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner to allow Hadjarab to return to France, pointing out that he was raised in France by his uncle after his father died in 1994.” As Gerin stated in a letter, “The uncle has French nationality, considers Nabil to be like his own son and is ready to look after him.”

Attorney Tara Murray of Reprieve, the London-based legal action charity whose lawyers represent Nabil, told AFP, “Reprieve still hopes that, upon serious consideration of Nabil’s letter, President Sarkozy will give him a chance to rebuild his life with his family in France. He is the one who has all of the ties to France, his family is there, his father fought for France in the Algerian war, his family has been hard working in the country for years now.”

Murray added that, when the US authorities cleared Nabil for release three years ago, they stated that he was “not a danger or threat at all.” She added, “We have met him personally, he is sweet, he is gentle, he is a kind man and even his guards in Guantánamo have gone on record to say that he is a very kind person.”

Readers who find the French government’s abrupt and dismissive response to Nabil Hadjarab’s appeal offensive can write to President Sarkozy via the Presidential website, or by mail to:

Président Nicolas Sarkozy
Monsieur le Président de la République
Palais de l’Elysée
55, Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré
75008, Paris, France

Note: Reprieve’s press release containing Nabil’s letter is available here (in French). Also see here for further information about Nabil, and about other Algerians still held in Guantánamo, which may make readers wonder whether the French government’s refusal to consider his case is part of a policy, shared by the government of France, the US (and, it should be noted, the UK) to combat well-documented claims that it is unsafe to repatriate Algerians, as part of a more general policy aimed at making sure that there are no impediments to the deportation of Algerians from Europe and the US.

Andy Worthington

Andy Worthington is an investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers). Worthington is the author of "The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison"

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