STOCKHOLM/CAIRO: An Egyptian man deported to his homeland from Sweden in 2001 in cooperation with US authorities has been freed after a decade in a Cairo prison, the Swedish foreign ministry said Thursday.
Ahmed Agiza "has been released. The Swedish embassy in Cairo was informed today that he was released from the Tora prison last week," ministry spokesman Tobia Nilsson told AFP.
Agiza was expelled from Sweden in December 2001 along with another Egyptian, Mohamed Al-Zery. Both were asylum seekers and suspected of involvement in an extremist organization linked to the Al-Qaeda network.
Agiza was among 10 released by the Egyptian ministry of interior and the ruling military council as part of granting amnesty to the prisoners who finished half their sentences, according to the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR).
The EOHR had initially applied for the release of 13 political prisoners, following a promise by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to release 86.
The ministry’s decision is “one of the most promising aspects of relationship between the government and the civil society organizations after the revolution,” EOHR said in a statement on Thursday.
Hafez Abu Seada, the head of EOHR, called for the rehabilitation of released prisoners.
Stockholm was heavily criticized at home and by UN human rights agencies and other groups for the controversial decision which was taken by a previous Social Democratic government.
After Sweden’s intelligence agency Saepo ordered that both Agiza and El-Zery be expelled they were handed over to US agents, put on a plane leased by the Pentagon and flown to Egypt, where they say they were tortured.
In Egypt, Agiza received a 25-year prison sentence for terrorism which was later reduced to 15 years. Al-Zery was freed by an Egyptian military court.
Sweden has acknowledged it made a mistake and has awarded the pair, who claimed they were also mistreated during their transfer to Cairo, three million kronor ($457,000, 323,000 euros) each in compensation.
Agiza’s family, who live in Sweden, told Swedish media Thursday they hoped he could join them in the Scandinavian country.
"We hope he can come to Sweden. That is our right, I think, like all other families to have him here, with me and his children. There shouldn’t be anything stopping that," his wife Hanan Attia told the TT news agency.
It remained unclear however if Swedish authorities would grant Agiza the right to come back, after Saepo less than two years ago reportedly said neither he nor Zery should be permitted to return for security reasons.
Nilsson at the foreign ministry told AFP Thursday that "the government’s handling of this case has been closed," adding that if Agiza applied to return to Sweden the application would be considered by the relevant immigration authorities.
The Swedish Migration Board said it had yet to receive an application from Agiza and could not comment on whether he would be granted permission to return. –Additional reporting by Daily News Egypt.