Germany Pushes to Retrieve Deported Bin Laden Bodyguard ‘As Soon As Possible’

Court rules suspected militant's deportation to Tunisia was illegal
August 1, 2018 Updated: August 1, 2018    

WARSAW—A prominent German politician is calling for the immediate return to Germany of a suspected Islamic militant and bodyguard of Osama bin Laden, after a court ruled the deportation illegal.

Wolfgang Kubicki, deputy leader of the liberal FDP party and vice president of the German parliament, told Deutschlandfunk on July 28 that Sami Aidoudi—referred to only as Sami A. in Germany due to privacy laws—should be retrieved from his native Tunisia “as soon as possible.”

Kubicki said “we live in a constitutional state” and the July 13 ruling by the Administrative Court of Gelsenkirchen should be respected and enforced.

“If we determine that politicians, not courts, should decide how the law should be interpreted, then God help us,” Kubicki said.

File photo of Wolfgang Kubicki of the German Free Democratic Party (FDP), arriving for coaliton talks on November 17, 2017 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
File photo of Wolfgang Kubicki of the German Free Democratic Party (FDP), arriving for coalition talks on Nov. 17, 2017 in Berlin, Germany. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Torture in Tunisia?

The court’s deportation ban, which upheld an assessment that Al-Qaeda affiliated Aidoudi could face “torture and inhumane treatment” in Tunisia, reached the federal agency involved in the extradition when the suspect was already on a plane, bound for his former homeland.

A spokesman for Tunisia’s anti-terrorist judiciary body, Sofian Sliti, rejected concerns Aidoudi would face torture in the country, which is in the middle of a democratic transition after the toppling of autocrat Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.

“We confirm that this will not happen. We confirm that the judiciary is independent and will not allow such practices. He is a citizen with full rights in a fair trial,” Sliti said.

Tunis authorities have since released Aidoudi, with Reuters citing Sliti on July 27 as saying that there was insufficient evidence to continue holding him, but that investigations would continue.

‘A Dangerous Figure’

German security services consider Aidoudi to be a dangerous and prominent figure of the Islamist scene in the country and have had him under observation since at least 2006, the Rheinische Post reported.

“That such a man is allowed to stay in Germany is a punch in the face to all anti-terror investigators,” an unnamed security source told the newspaper.

“He protected the most wanted man in the world and we treat him with kid gloves,” the source said, referring to allegations that Aidoudi served as bodyguard to bin Laden, charges the suspect denies.

A video grab dated 19 June 2001 shows Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden in a video tape said to have been prepared and released by bin Laden himself. German security officials have accused Sami Aidoudi of serving as bin Laden's bodyguard. (AFP/Getty Images)
A video grab dated June 19, 2001 shows Osama bin Laden in a videotape said to have been prepared and released by bin Laden himself. German security officials have accused Sami Aidoudi of serving as bin Laden’s bodyguard. (AFP/Getty Images)

Policy Shift

Aidoudi’s decade-long fight against extradition was helped by the policy of Germany’s Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) that deportation to Tunisia was too dangerous due to the high risk of torture.

But human rights progress in Tunisia prompted a recent BAMF policy shift, opening the door to Aidoudi’s deportation. He appealed, but the ruling came too late to prevent his extradition.

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has rejected accusations that the deportation was illegal.

“We are of the opinion that we have done the right thing, and we don’t want the threat he poses here,” Seehofer said.

He spoke to reporters at a July 18 news conference on a draft list extending the list of “safe countries,” whose citizens are ineligible for asylum, including North African nations like Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia.

What the Courts Say

Armin Schuster, a German conservative lawmaker, told Reuters that Tunisia’s decision to release Aidoudi proves Germany was right to deport him.

“If the Tunisian authorities have released him, then that breaks up the argument that he could face torture there,” he told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper, adding that Germany should block Aidoudi from re-entering the country if he tried to do so.

Judges at the Gelsenkirchen court disagree.

They ruled that the city of Bochum, the local authority involved in the deportation, must bring Aidoudi back to Germany by a July 31 deadline or face a 10,000 euro ($11,700) fine.

Bochum city authorities appealed, but lost.

Higher Administrative Court judge Dr. Gudrun Dahme told The Epoch Times that the appeals court ruled on Monday to uphold the punitive measures and so negate the legality of Aidoudi’s extradition.

Meanwhile, Tunisian officials said there are no grounds to send Aidoudi back to Germany. They have confiscated his passport until their investigation has run its course, and added that he may still face trial on charges of “terrorism.”

Kubicki said that he, too, would rather not see Aidoudi return to Germany.

“Personally, that does not suit me either, and I would also argue that Sami A. stays in Tunisia,” but, he added, German law must be enforced “even if it does not suit you.”

Reuters contributed to this report.

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