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Tunisia jails ex-Guantanamo prisoner for 3 years

October 24, 2007

TUNIS, Oct 24 (Reuters) - A Tunisian court jailed a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner for three years on Wednesday on charges of belonging to a group that was preparing to attack people and property, a judicial source said.

U.S. authorities released and repatriated Lotfi Lagha last June after he spent five years in the U.S. detention camp on the island of Cuba.

Lagha, a Tunisian national, had been arrested in 2002 on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan after travelling illegally from Tunisia to Italy four years ealier.

Compatriot Abdullah al Hajji Ben Amor, who spent five years at Guantanamo and was returned home at the same time as Lagha, also faces trial at the end of the month on terrorism charges.

"I haven't been involved in any terrorist activity," Lagha said during his trial. "I went to Afghanistan for work."

The 40-year-old, who was sentenced by a court of first instance in Tunis, told his lawyer that U.S. soldiers had cut his fingers while he was in Guantanamo.

Human Rights Watch said last month that Lagha and Hajji were also mistreated by the Tunisian authorities while in detention after being sent home.

A government source denied that on Wednesday, saying "both individuals have been held in ordinary conditions in conformity with international conventions".

Ten Tunisian detainees remain at Guantanamo and at least eight of them have been convicted in Tunisia of crimes in absentia, according to a Human Rights Watch report.

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