Mr Britel emigrated to Italy in 1989 and married an Italian. In 2002, he visited Pakistan to work on the translation of books about Islam. According to reports by the International Federation of Human Rights (no.379/2 July 2004) and Statewatch, he was detained on 10 March 2002 during a document check in Lahore. His passport was wrongly deemed to be a fake and as a result, he was tied up, chained, tortured and denied access to the Italian Embassy to verify the authenticity of his passport. Ten days later, he was taken to the Crime Investigation Department for five days of interrogations that included ill-treatment, violence and sleep deprivation. He was handed back to the police and then to the Pakistani secret service and was again tortured on two occasions, on one of which he made false admissions under pressure.
On 5 May 2002, Mr Britel was transferred to Islamabad to be interrogated by the FBI on four occasions. He was offered money in return for information on Osama bin Laden and allowed access to the Moroccan Ambassador, despite having been denied contact with the Italian Embassy.
On 24 May, he was blindfolded, handcuffed and put onto a private American aeroplane to Rabat. From there, he was taken to an unofficial detention centre in Temara, where the Moroccan security services holds prisoners without access to a lawyer, without informing their families and routinely tortures and isolates detainees.
Mr Britel was finally released on 11 February 2003, yet was denied restitution of his passport. Finally on 12 May, four days before the deadly terrorist attacks in Casablanca, the Italian Embassy provided him with a transit pass. He went to the border crossing in the Spanish North African enclave of Melilla, where he was arrested once again and taken to an unknown location. However on this occasion his detention was reported by a local newspaper, which also reported that he had been sought in connection with past ties to Al Qaeda. Four months later, Mr Britel’s family found out that he had been imprisoned and was being prosecuted for forming an illegal group. In January 2004 was found guilty after trial and was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment which was reduced to 9 years on appeal.
Mr Britel had been under investigation in Italy prior to his arrest in Pakistan. This appears to have been an important element in the charges brought against him in Morocco. However, in spite of two years’ surveillance and a lengthy judicial investigation into his activities, he was not charged in Italy. The prosecuting magistrate requested judicial proceedings against Mr Britel be shelved (on 28 July 2006) due to “absolute lack of grounds of evidence of charge, which may be used in trial”. The order by the judge for preliminary proceedings decreeing the end of judicial proceedings (doc. 9745/06, dated 29 September 2006) stated that “the checks that have been undertaken, telephone interceptions and checks on bank accounts have not provided any support to the allegations”.
The European Commission has condemned this case, particularly the extradition and evidence that Italian Ministry of Internal Affairs had been in constant cooperation with the foreign services in this case (Transportation and illegal detention of prisoners, European Parliament resolution on the alleged use of European countries by the CIA for the transportation and illegal detention of prisoners, (2006/2200(INI)), February 2007’). The European Parliamen also called on the Italian government ‘to take concrete measures to obtain the immediate release of Abou Elkassim Britel’.
He finally received a pardon with one year on his sentence remaining.
An unlikely victim of the 'War on Terror' – A documentary in which Abou Kassim first talks about his case.
"Justice for Kassim" – The website highlighting Kassim's plight (English)
A petition has been setup for acknowledgement of the wrongful imprisonment and torture.
(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.)