01 January 2007
Renditions: Italian and European MPs set to request pardon for Abou Elkassim Britel
MPs from Italy and from the European Parliament are set to ask the Moroccan Royal Cabinet to grant a pardon to the Italian citizen of Moroccan origins, and rendition victim, Abou Elkassim Britel, who is currently imprisoned in Casablanca after having been sentenced to nine years in January 2004 for membership of a subversive organisation and for activities including the holding unauthorised meetings.
Britel was arrested in Pakistan in March 2002, and was subsequently interrogated by Pakistani and US officials, before being handed over to Moroccan authorities, detained and tortured in a secret detention facility in Temara, released without charges being brought against him, and rearrested at the border crossing in the Spanish North African enclave of Melilla as he was making his way back to Italy in May 2003.
He is currently detained in Äin Bourja prison in Casablanca. In spite of his having been under investigation in Italy on suspicion of involvement in terrorist activities for five years, the case was shelved in September 2006 after the investigating magistrate concluded that there was "an absolute lack of grounds of evidence of charge which may be used in trial" and that the suspicion motivating the inquiries had proved unfounded. Nonetheless, allegations in the Italian press and the judicial proceedings that were underway in Italy influenced court proceedings against Britel in Morocco that led to him being sentenced.
The request for the pardon follows an undertaking made on
14 December 2006 by the Italian undersecretary for justice, Luigi
Li Gotti, who, in reply to a question by MP Ezio Locatelli, expressed
his concern for Britel's situation and guaranteed "maximum
effort on occasion of the coming concession of measures of pardon
on 31 December 2006", which has already passed.
Moreover, in its draft final report, the EP's TDIP commission investigating renditions called for "the Italian government to take concrete steps in order to obtain the immediate release of Abou Elkassim Britel" [point 54 of the draft report], after hearing evidence from Britel's lawyer, Francesca Longhi, as well as noting that the commission had received documentation showing that "the Italian Ministry of Internal Affairs was in 'constant cooperation' with foreign secret services concerning the case of Abou Elkassim Britel following his arrest in Pakistan" [point 53].
On 12 January 2007, Britel sent a letter from prison in Casablanca to leading Italian authorities (the president Giorgio Napolitano, the president of Parliament Fausto Bertinotti, the foreign affairs minister Massimo D'Alema and justice minister Clemente Mastella) to complain about having been "abandoned in the most absolute indifference in spite of the numerous pieces of evidence of the injustice that I have suffered". He argued that the reasons for his arrest have "nothing to do with Morocco", that he was subjected to "ferocious torture" and is likely to suffer the physical consequences "forever", and called on Italy to make a genuine effort to secure his release.
Britel also asked "Why am I told that there are rules that must be respected when no one EVER [emphasis in the original] worried about the illegal acts that I have suffered from the start, with the arbitrary arrest, the kidnapping, the torture, the transfer and the unfair trial and hard detention?"
Britel letter to Italian authorities from Äin Bourja prison in Casablanca, 12 January 2007.
English version [unofficial translation by Statewatch]
Draft pardon request by Italian MPs and MEPs, Rome-Brussels-Rabat, January 2007
In-depth information about the Britel rendition: Documents sent to European Parliament committee on renditions allege other renditions and details of Abu Omar cover-up and the Britel rendition November 2006
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