TIRANA: A former Guantanamo inmate granted political asylum in Albania on Tuesday accused Tirana of blocking his return to his native Egypt.
“The American federal court recognized my innocence, I have all the necessary papers from the Egyptian authorities that say I am not the subject of any criminal or legal prosecution in Egypt,” 34-year-old Sherif el-Meshad told a press conference.
Meshad was arrested in Pakistan after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
He spent eight years in Guantanamo Bay before being sent to Albania in 2010 where he got political asylum following a deal between Washington and Tirana over fears that he faced persecution and torture back home.
However the situation has changed since the fall of Hosni Mubarak in February last year, his lawyer said.
“Albania should respect international laws, it cannot block el-Meshad from returning home to Egypt, even more because after the fall of Mubarak the situation in Egypt has changed,” said Katie Taylor of the international prisoners and ex-prisoners’ rights watch dog Reprieve.
According to Meshad he and his wife were stopped several times at the Albanian border when they tried to leave for Egypt.
“We have not received any official response on the part of the Albanian authorities and according to our research there is no legal reason to block the Meshads from leaving Albania,” Taylor said.
Albanian Interior Ministry spokesman Fatmir Konja said he had no comment on the case.
Taylor said Guantanamo Bay is still a “political issue” in the United States and that Tirana may fear harming its close ties with Washington if it grants El Meshad’s request.
Albania has granted political asylum to at least 12 former Guatanamo inmates since 2006 — none of them Albanians. Taylor said other countries such as Italy, Slovakia and Georgia have let many of their resettled ex-Guantanamo detainees go back home.