Djamel Beghal was born in Bordj bou Areridj (Algeria) on 2 December 1965. In 1987, he left Algeria to pursue his studies. He settled in France and eventually married a French citizen in 1990 with whom he now has four children.
During his time in France, he was employed as youth worker in Corbeil Essonnes, near Paris. He also used that time to preach to French citizens about Islam and call them to the religion.
In 1996 Beghal was interrogated by the police. They had arrested another man who had Beghal’s phone number, and they used the opportunity to question him about a suspect named Nabil Bounour. He was released after the police realised that he had no information, however, he was then on their records.
It was in 1997 that he chose to move his entire family to Leicester in the UK. Initially he earned a living making sandwiches, but after that he tried his hand working for a homeless charity and also pursuing a vocational course in IT. He spent some time as a job seeker trying to find work through a centre. During his time in the UK, Beghal did not subscribe to any organisations.
Three years later, in November 2000, the family emigrated to Jalalabad in Afghanistan, as they wanted to live in a Muslim country. While there, they lived peaceful and private lives. Again, Beghal did not join any parties of groups during the period he was in Afghanistan.
On 29 July 2001, Djamel Beghal was detained by the Emirati authorities in Abu Dhabi while on his way to Morocco from Pakistan. He was accompanying the wife and children of a friend who were unwell and required treatment in Morocco. Djamel was asked to take the place of his friend as he did not have a valid travel documentation.
Beghal was taken to a secret detention facility which was later revealed to be the headquarters of the Abu Dhabi police. On the same day as his arrest and detention, both the CIA and French security agencies were informed of his location.
French complicity in torture
Le Point reported that the Emirati police had been sharing information with the French authorities since the beginning of August 2001. Questions being asked of Beghal confirmed for him that it was the French who were feeding information to the Emirati police during his torture and abuse.
Beghal’s detention was finally revealed to the public by Le Monde. Following the publication of the article, there were mass arrests of all those he knew in France.
On 21 September 2001, the juge d’instruction Bruguière arrived in UAE to interrogate Beghal, but never directly met him or spoke to him. According to the New York based Human Rights Watch the judge received a signed confession of Beghal’s involvement in a plot to blow up the US Embassy in Paris.
After two months of torture and abuse in an Emirati detention facility, Djamel Beghal was placed on a CIA rendition flight back to France.
British complicity in torture
Beghal alleges that a British security agent interrogated him about his activities in Afghanistan around 8 August 2001. In particular the British agent was not interested in any specific plot, but rather was more concerned about those Beghal knew in the UK.
During the two months of his detention he was interrogated at various points by the British agent. At one point, he was beaten by the agent as his blindfold slipped and he was able to see his captors.
Return to France
On his arrival back in France, Beghal was taken immediately to be interrogated by judge Bruguière after a 22 hour flight. The interrogation lasted 19 hours and included threats against him and his family, if he refused to accept the bargain the judge was offering he alleges. Beghal had been put through over 40 hours of constant trauma.
The same day a doctor examined Beghal and found evidence of the ill-treatment he alleges. The evidence was consistent with a number of the techniques that he says were used against him.
On 15 March 2005, Djamel Beghal was convicted of “criminal association in relation with a terrorist undertaking”. He was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. The trial was based very much on statements that he made during his abuse in the Emirati prison. During his questioning in the trial, he was not asked anything about that testimony, but rather was only questioned about his ideology.
According to a Wikileaks revelation, on 9 May 2005, Judge Jean-François Ricard made a statement to a US political diplomat stationed in France, that Beghal’s case would never have led to a conviction based on the evidence, had it not been for the reputation of France’s anti-terrorist judges.
The French authorities decided to remove Beghal’s citizenship in July 2006. On the day of his release on 30 May 2009 they attempted to deport him to Algeria, however they were stopped because of the legal implications of refoulement. He was eventually released under house arrest conditions in Murat.
In the latest development, on 18 May 2011 Beghal was rearrested for allegedly directing a terrorist group, he continues to challenge that charge.
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)