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Ex-Guantanamo Inmates on Trial in Paris


Six French men went on trial Monday on terrorism charges related to time allegedly spent in extremist training camps in Afghanistan. The six were previously imprisoned at the Guantanamo camp in Cuba, which European governments want the United States to close.

The six men are charged with associating with evildoers, relating to a terrorist enterprise, and face up to 10 years in prison if found guilty. Five of the men are accused of participating in al Qaida training camps in Afghanistan. The sixth man allegedly received fundamentalist religious training at the camps.

All six were captured in 2001, during the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. They were held at the U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo Bay and returned to France over the period of 2004 and 2005. One of those accused was subsequently held in French prison, but the others were released under court control pending their trial.

The men claim they suffered psychological and physical torture at Guantanamo. William Bourdon, the lawyer for one of them, Nizar Sassi, said their experience at Guantanamo would be discussed at the Paris trial.

In an interview with Radio France, Bourdon said his client had confidence in the French justice system. He said the men suffered terrible tests there. While their time at Guantanamo wouldn't be directly included in the defense plea, Bourdon predicted their experience at Guantanamo would be inevitably an issue.

France and other European governments have called on the Bush administration to close the Guantanamo camp, arguing it violates international human rights. But no European government disputes the need to crack down on international terrorism.

Those accused at the Paris trial are among a number of alleged Islamists in France and elsewhere in Europe accused of receiving terrorist training Afghanistan. Some went on to join the insurgency there or to plan attacks in Europe. Experts say European Islamists have more recently been heading for Iraq to join that insurgency.

The father and brother of one of the men on trial Monday, Mourad Benchallali, were also convicted recently of planning attacks in France in 2002.

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