April 21, 2011 | FDD’s Long War Journal

Ex-Gitmo Detainee Deported From Italy to Tunisia

Italy has deported a former Guantanamo detainee who was convicted of terrorism-related charges to Tunisia. The ex-detainee, Adel Ben Mabrouk, was convicted by an Italian court after being transferred from Gitmo in 2009. But in February of this year, Mabrouk's sentence was commuted to “time served” because of his eight-year-long detention in Cuba.

According to an Associated Press report today, “The [Italian] Interior Ministry said Adel Ben Mabrouk was put on a plane for Tunisia under an agreement with Tunisian diplomats in Rome.” Mabrouk's transfer had been held up by the turmoil in Tunisia, where protesters overthrew President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and sparked revolutions throughout the Middle East.

Mabrouk began working with an al Qaeda-affiliated network in Italy in the late 1990s. During that time, he became a member of the al Qaeda-linked Sami Essid network, which operated out of the Italian Islamic Cultural Institute in Milan. Sami Essid is included on the United Nations' list of Taliban and al Qaeda associates and members, and he was imprisoned in Italy for his leadership role in the Tunisian Combat Group (TCG), a known al Qaeda affiliate. [See LWJ report, Italian judge orders former Gitmo detainee freed.]

After the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, Italian authorities closed down Milan's Islamic Cultural Institute because it was used as a hub for terrorist activity. In particular, the Essid network assisted terrorists belonging to al Qaeda's affiliates in North Africa as they moved to and from Afghanistan as well as other jihadist hotspots.

According to the Associated Press, the Italian Interior Ministry released a statement saying that the Essid group planned to use “a car bomb to blow up Milan's Gothic cathedral,” but the plot was never launched.

In early 2001, Mabrouk traveled to Afghanistan to train and fight with the Taliban and al Qaeda. During a hearing at Guantanamo, Mabrouk tried to downplay his terrorist ties, but admitted that he stayed in an al Qaeda guesthouse and received light arms training there.

In announcing Mabrouk's transfer in November 2009, the Department of Justice released a statement saying that both Mabrouk and another ex-Guantanamo detainee were placed in “the custody and control of the government of Italy.”

The DOJ's statement reads: “The United States has coordinated with the government of Italy to ensure the transfers take place under appropriate security measures and will continue to consult with the government of Italy regarding these detainees.”

It is not clear whether the US government has arranged to consult with Tunisian officials in the new government there now that Mabrouk has been deported from Italy.

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Issues:

Tunisia