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Australian ex-Guantanamo inmate 'mentally scarred'

January 30, 2005

MELBOURNE - Australian former Guantanamo Bay detainee Mamdouh Habib is suffering psychological and emotional problems due to his nearly three-year incarceration at the US military base, his lawyer said on Sunday.

Habib arrived home in Sydney on Friday after being released from the detention centre in Cuba where he was held on suspicion of links to al Qaeda.

American lawyer Joe Margulies said: "Mr Habib has some chronic medical conditions as a result of his incarceration that we're going to get taken care of or at least have specialists take a look at.

"He has developed some emotional and psychological conditions that will require even more time (to recover from)."

Habib was held on suspicion of helping Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network after being arrested crossing into Afghanistan from Pakistan three weeks after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.

However, the US failed to find enough evidence to ever charge him.

Habib has said he was tortured for six months in Egypt from late 2001 before he was sent to Guantanamo Bay.

The United States has denied prisoner abuse allegations and the State Department has said it believes Guantanamo detainees were treated humanely.

Australia has said Habib would not be investigated for any offence at home as it was not a crime there to be involved with al Qaeda in 2001.

New anti-terror laws have since been introduced to outlaw being a member of, training with, funding or associating with organisations Australia regards as terror groups, such as al Qaeda.

But Australia still regards Habib as a security concern and will keep him under strict surveillance.

A few dozen of Habib's supporters held a public welcome-home party in a suburban park in western Sydney on Saturday. Habib did not attend the event.

After arriving in Australia on Friday, he was taken to a private family reunion.

Margulies said Habib's family needed time to adjust to having him home, adding that his youngest daughter did not remember him.

Margulies declined to say if Habib would seek compensation for his detention.

But Australian Prime Minister John Howard has said Habib will not receive compensation or an apology for his detention in Cuba and under Australian criminal law is unlikely to be able to sell his story to the media.

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