March 31, 2015 / 2:18 PM / 5 years ago

Poland seeks U.S. assurances over Guantanamo inmate

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland’s government has sent an official note to U.S. authorities seeking diplomatic assurances that an inmate at the U.S. military jail in Guantanamo Bay will not be subject to the death penalty, the Polish Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled earlier this year that the Guantanamo inmate, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, had been held illegally in a CIA jail on Polish soil and later transferred into U.S. jurisdiction without due process.

Nashiri is to stand trial before a military tribunal on charges of masterminding the 2000 suicide bombing of the warship USS Cole off Yemen, in which 17 U.S. sailors were killed. If found guilty, he could be sentenced to death.

In a statement sent to Reuters, the Polish Foreign Ministry said that Poland’s government “has taken steps to seek diplomatic assurances that the applicant (Nashiri) will not be subjected to the death penalty, first by engaging in diplomatic talks, and then by delivering an official note on the matter”.

The Foreign Ministry did not reply to questions from Reuters over whether there had been a response from U.S. authorities.

But it said it also planned to take additional steps to seek assurances from the U.S. authorities that neither Nashiri nor another man sent to Guantanamo after being held in Poland, Abu Zubaydah, would be exposed to a “flagrant denial of justice”.

By seeking the assurances from the United States, the Polish government was implementing one of the requirements set out in the European Court’s ruling.

A report by the U.S. Senate intelligence committee published last year described how, in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the CIA held dozens of al Qaeda suspects in secret facilities around the world, and subjected many to torture.

To date, the only people held to account have been in Europe. The European Court of Human Rights, based in Strasbourg, ordered the Polish government to pay compensation to Nashiri and Zubaydah, and hold an investigation into how they came to be secretly detained in a villa in a Polish forest.

The United States opened the Guantanamo facility in 2002 to hold what it described as foreign terrorism suspects. The treatment of detainees there has drawn international criticism.

Lawyers for Guantanamo detainees facing trial say they believe the legal cases in Europe will undermine the U.S. prosecutions against their clients. They say the charges against them are based on testimony extracted under torture.

Reporting by Christian Lowe; Editing by Crispian Balmer

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