December 20, 2007 / 5:41 AM / 12 years ago

Spain extradition bid for ex-Guantanamo UK resident

LONDON (Reuters) - A British resident released from Guantanamo Bay after more than four years in U.S. custody appeared in court in London on Thursday to face possible extradition to Spain on terrorism charges.

News photographers take pictures of a police van carrying former Guantanamo Bay detainee Jamil el-Banna as he arrives at Westminster Magistrates Court in London December 20, 2007. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

Jamil el-Banna, 45, flown back to Britain on Wednesday with two other British residents released from the U.S. detention facility in Cuba, was arrested on a European Union warrant shortly after his arrival.

Appearing at London’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court, he was granted 50,000 pounds ($100,000) bail and told to return to court on January 9, 2008. His movements will be monitored electronically and he will not be allowed travel documents, the judge ruled.

Spain has requested his extradition under a 2003 indictment filed by Judge Baltasar Garzon against more than two dozen suspected al Qaeda associates.

Melanie Cumberland, a lawyer representing the Spanish authorities, said Banna was accused of being a member of an al Qaeda cell, known as the Islamic Alliance, in Madrid between June 1996 and July 2001.

The two other British residents released with Banna, Omar Deghayes, 38, and Abdennour Sameur, 34, were also in police custody after being arrested under Britain’s Terrorism Act. They have not yet been charged.

A Spanish judicial official said that Garzon also wanted Deghayes to be extradited under the same indictment but papers had not yet been served in his case.

Lawyers representing Banna said they were surprised by his arrest as the evidence against him was thin.

“(It’s) just a bunch of phone calls he made” to people in Spain, said Clive Stafford Smith, the head of legal charity Reprieve, which has campaigned for the release of the three men.

Stafford Smith said he had been in contact with the Spanish authorities as long ago as September 2005, when they had shown little interest in extraditing any of the three.

NO CHARGES

Banna, a Jordanian and father of five whose wife still lives in Britain, was taken to Guantanamo after being arrested at an airport in Gambia, West Africa, in November 2002.

Deghayes, a Libyan national, and Sameur, an Algerian, were seized in Pakistan after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan.

The United States has said all three are dangerous but never charged them with a crime during their detention at Guantanamo.

Banna is likely to face lengthy court hearings and a complex trial in Spain if his extradition goes ahead.

Slideshow (2 Images)

His wife expressed outrage at the decision to arrest him, having hoped he would immediately be returned home.

The United States agreed to free Banna, Deghayes and Sameur after months of pressure from the British government.

Washington did not say why it had decided to comply with Britain’s request but has come under fierce international criticism for its detention policies at Guantanamo Bay.

Additional reporting by Luke Baker in London and Jason Webb in Madrid; Editing by Tim Pearce

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