France interrogated Gitmo detainees

French hypocrisy exposed at last! It seems all the official pomposity and condescension about the barabric American torture state was merely for political show. We are shocked, shocked! From the New York Times, July 6:

PARIS, July 5 — A French terrorism trial was thrown into turmoil on Wednesday by a leaked report that French intelligence agents had secretly interviewed the six defendants during their detention by the United States at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba.

The revelation by the daily newspaper Libération is an embarrassment for the French government, which has long expressed official disdain for the American policy of detaining terrorism suspects beyond the reach of law.

According to a copy of a diplomatic cable published Wednesday by the newspaper, French agents visited the detention center shortly after it was created in January 2002 and again in March of that year.

Jean-Baptiste Mattéi, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, defended the Guantánamo interrogations, saying they were normal consular visits during which it is routine to “gather any useful information.” How that information was used in this case “is a matter for the judicial authority,” he said.

French courts have previously declared the Guantánamo detentions illegal.

The six former detainees, seized by the United States in Afghanistan and Pakistan as they fled the American invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, are accused of “associating with terrorist groups.” Their lawyers contend that the accusations are invalid because they are based on the illegal American detentions.

Two of the lawyers, Jacques Debray and William Bourdon, have maintained for four years that the French secret services interrogated their clients at Guantánamo. In 2004, they asked that the case be dismissed because it was based on interrogations that were “outside of any legal framework.”

Their request was rejected last year for lack of evidence, and that rejection was upheld by France’s highest court in January this year.

On Wednesday, the lawyers for the six men did not ask that the trial be dismissed, however, saying that they feared such a move would only prolong the case. They asked instead that their clients be found innocent based on the irregularities.

“We think that even if they are found guilty, the sentences will be very short because of all of these problems,” Mr. Debray said.

A spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office, speaking on the condition of customary anonymity, denied Wednesday that the secret interrogations played any role in their case, saying that prosecutors were unaware of the interrogations until the article appeared on Wednesday.

“The accusations aren’t founded on these elements, but on information uncovered since the defendants were released from Guantánamo,” she said.

One of the defendants, Khaled Ben Mustapha, told the court on Tuesday that the document contained names that he gave French officials during his first interrogation in Guantánamo in early 2002.

He said the officials had told him they were from the Foreign Ministry and were trying to resolve his case.

See our last posts on France and the torture and detainment scandal.