Nizar Trabelsi, at the criminal court of Liège (Belgium), October 16, 2006. MICHEL KRAKOWSKI / AFP
Tried and sentenced to ten years in prison in Belgium, then delivered to the United States where he was locked up for ten years before finally being acquitted and, today, still placed in solitary confinement in a detention center for foreigners in Virginia: the fate of Tunisian Nizar Trabelsi, 53, will undoubtedly remain a textbook case for specialists in law and anti-terrorism policies.
According to his two Belgian lawyers, Christophe Marchand and Dounia Alamat, the physical and mental health of this former Al-Qaeda sympathizer is worrying and his current conditions of detention are “abominable”. Maintained in complete isolation for a long time, he remains today placed in a windowless basement cell, despite his acquittal last July by a federal jury charged with examining his role in a planned attack against the base. American military from Kleine-Brogel, Belgium.
His contacts with his loved ones are subject to restrictions, underlines his American lawyer, Sabrina Shroff. Suffering from various disorders, including untreated diabetes, he began a hunger and thirst strike in mid-September. Transported to a hospital and forcibly rehydrated, he was then placed back in a cell.
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Since his acquittal, Trabelsi’s defenders have hoped to bring him back to Brussels, where his family and children live. This would require an official request from the Belgian Ministry of Justice. ” No comment “responds the cabinet concerned, various sources confirming that the Belgian authorities are hiding behind the fact that Trabelsi does not have the nationality of the country and that his marriage was only religious.
On the side of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we specify that we act in legal cases “only on the basis of a request from the Federal Public Justice Service, for example to transmit a specific request to the authorities of a third State, which is done through diplomatic channels”. Clearly, this request was not made.
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Trabesli’s fear now is of being deported to Tunisia, where he risks a sentence of twenty years in detention. A military court in Tunis convicted him in 2005 of belonging to a terrorist organization. “A conviction based exclusively on “confessions” obtained in violation of the prohibition of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment”, says Me Alamat. Belgium had, in any case, refused the extradition requested by Tunisia because the sentence had been decided by a special court. When he was handed over to the United States, Trabelsi also obtained a guarantee from the Belgian authorities that he would not be transferred to his country of origin.
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