SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Hajj Boudella’s children will have to wait a while to see their father, even though a U.S. federal judge ordered his release last week from the Guantanamo Bay prison after nearly seven years.
“After the ruling, my children asked if this means their dad would come home that same night,” Boudella’s wife Nadja Dizdarevic told Reuters in an interview this week.
“Their faces fell when they realized it may be a long time before they see him again,” said the mother of four who has to move from apartment to apartment each time her landlord finds out about her husband’s case.
It may take up to two years before Boudella, one of five Algerians ordered released last week from Guantanamo, returns home to Bosnia, where he first went during the 1992-95 war to help organize humanitarian assistance.
Thousands of volunteers from Arab and African countries came to Bosnia during the war to fight along with Bosnian Muslims against Serbs and Croats. Some worked for Islamic aid groups.
Boudella stayed on past the war after marrying Dizdarevic, who was widowed with one child when her first husband died in the war. They have three children of their own.
“He has never seen our youngest daughter who was only eight days old when they kidnapped him,” Dizdarevic said, referring to extradition by Bosnian authorities of the six Algerians to the U.S. military authorities in January 2002.
Bosnia picked up the men in October 2001, shortly after the Sept 11 attacks on the United States by al Qaeda militants. U.S. President George W. Bush said later the six men had been planning a bomb attack on the U.S. embassy in Sarajevo.
Justice Department attorneys said last month they would no longer rely on those accusations but that the men should continue to be held because they planned to go to Afghanistan in late 2001 to fight U.S. forces there.
LACK OF EVIDENCE
The U.S. court ruled last week that there was enough evidence to keep one of the six men in detention but that the evidence against the other five was too weak.
“My children grew up overnight, they are not children anymore. They don’t play games but watch news,” Dizdarevic said. “I want normal children and not adults but it is too late now.”
The men were taken to the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba the day after a ruling by a top court in Bosnia that they should be released due to a lack of evidence.
“I expect Bosnia-Herzegovina to use this opportunity and correct injustice inflicted on all of us, and establish diplomatic links with the United States as soon as possible to bring these men home,” Dizdarevic said.
Their final release from Guantanamo is pending a decision by the U.S. government on whether to appeal the ruling, and on a request by the Bosnian authorities for their immediate release, human rights activists said.
“They should have reacted immediately and made an emergency plan to bring these people back home after their innocence had been proved,” said Muhamed Djemidjic, the director of the Bosnian branch of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights.
Over the years Dizdarevic has become a determined human rights activist who has organized protests and lodged appeals at local and international human rights courts.
“I fought not to spend the rest of my life as the wife of a terrorist but of a man who was illegally kidnapped,” she said.
Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; editing by Adam Tanner and Philippa Fletcher
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