Nizar Sassi

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Nizar Sassi (born August 1, 1979) is a citizen of France who was detained by the United States in their naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.[1] His Guantanamo Internment Serial Number was 325.[2]

Life in France, prior to traveling to Afghanistan

Prior to leaving France, Sassi worked as a night watchman for a local municipal government.[3] He had saved money to buy a car, and was planning to use savings to open a restaurant. He is reported to have decided to join his friend Mourad Benchellali, in traveling to Afghanistan, on a whim. Benchellali had been encouraged to travel to Afghanistan by his older brother Menad Benchellali. The older Benchellali had fought in Afghanistan. Sassi's friend, the younger Benchellali would later write that his older brother had tricked him, that he thought he would be having a "dream vacation", rather than attending a military camp.[4]

Afghanistan and Guantanamo

Sassi and Mourad Benchellali arrived in Afghanistan in the summer of 2001, and attended a military training camp. Afterwards they spent time in Jalalabad, a large city in [[Nangarhar Province, near the Pakistani border.[3] After the USA attacked Afghanistan the two men fled to Pakistan with Hervé Djamel Loiseau, a convert to islam from Paris. Loiseau died. Sassi and Benchellali made it across the border into Pakistan, where they were promptly apprehended by Pakistani officials, who sold them to the USA for a substantial bounty.

Sassi was transferred to Guantanamo Bay of February 15, 2002.[3] He was repatriated to France on July 27, 2004.[5] Sassis remained in French custody until January 9, 2006. Although originally convicted in France, his trial was overturned and he was released in February 2009.[6]

Sassi worked for the Venissieux Council.[7] Venissieux is a suburb or Lyon.

According to his brother, Aymen, Nizar traveled to Pakistan to learn formal Arabic.[8]

Security authorities claim Sassi travelled to Afghanistan in 2001 at the direction of Menad Benchellali, an alleged al Qaeda recruiter.[9] Mourad Benchellali and Sassi are alleged to have traveled to Afghanistan on forged passports.[10]

Nizar Sassi and four other men stood trial on terrorism charges upon their return to France.[11] The five men's conviction were overturned in February 2009, because they had improperly been interviewed by France's intelligence officials, who were not authorized to act in a law enforcement role. On February 17, 2010, the Court of Cassation, a higher court, ordered a re-trial of the five men.

Mourad Benchellali's McClatchy interview

On June 15, 2008 the McClatchy News Service published articles based on interviews with 66 former Guantanamo captives. McClatchy reporters interviewed Mourad Benchellali in France.[12][13] In his interview Mourad described how he and Nizar were tricked into traveling to Afghanistan by his older brother Menad Benchellali. He described how they found Afghanistan nothing like what they expected. He described not speaking Pashtu, Dari or Arabic, but they met some Algerians who spoke French, who suggested they attend a religious camp.

During his interview Mourad described what it was like to attend the training camp: a lot praying; lectures on jihad; physical training; some weapons training, which did not include any weapons.[13] He said he and Nizar realized the only way to leave the camp early was to fall ill, so they pretended to fall ill, only to be sent to the camp infirmary. But then he said Nizar really did fall ill, eventually losing 45 pounds.

Mourad described reconnecting with Nizar after his time at the camp was over, and asking the Algerians for help leaving Afghanistan.[13] They told them they would have to wait a few weeks while arrangements were made, but then the USA attacked, and it was not possible to leave.

French trial

Nizar Sassi, and four other French citizens, were convicted in 2007 of "criminal association with a terrorist enterprise."[14] They had their convictions overturned on appeal on February 24, 2009. Their convictions were overturned because they were based on interrogations conducted in Guantanamo, and the interrogations were conducted by French security officials, not law enforcement officials.

Formerly secret Joint Task Force Guantanamo assessment

On April 25, 2011, whistleblower organization WikiLeaks published formerly secret assessments drafted by Joint Task Force Guantanamo analysts.[15][16] Sassi's three page assessment was drafted on March 27, 2004.[17] It was signed by commandant Jay W. Hood, who recommended transfer to another country for continued detention.[18]


  • (German) Nizar Sassi: Ich war gefangen in Guantanamo - Ein Ex-Häftling erzählt Heyne, München, 2006, ISBN 3-453-12095-7
  • (Italian) Nizar Sassi: Prigioniero 325, Delta Camp. Einaudi, Torino, 2006. ISBN 88-06-18471-7
  • (Spanish) Nizar Sassi: Guantanamo, Prisionero 325, Campo Delta. Edaf S.A. 07/2006 ISBN 84-414-1802-0
  • (Norwegian) Nizar Sassi: Fange 325 : dokumentar fra Guantánamo-leiren Oslo, Aschehoug, 2006. ISBN 82-03-23408-9

See also


  1. Guantanamo man finally freed, News24, January 11, 2004
  2. "List of Individuals Detained by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba from January 2002 through May 15, 2006". United States Department of Defense. Retrieved 2006-05-15. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Andy Worthington (2011-07-18). "WikiLeaks and the Guantánamo Prisoners Released from 2002 to 2004 (Part Four of Ten)". Archived from the original on 2011-07-24. Retrieved 2014-02-27. 
  4. Mourad Benchellali (2006-06-14). "Detainees in Despair". New York Times. p. A23. Archived from the original on 2014-02-27. 
  5. "Transfer of French Detainees Complete". US Department of Defense. 2004-07-27. Archived from the original on 2004-10-31. Retrieved 2014-02-28. "The Department of Defense announced today that it transferred four detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to the control of the government of France.These detainees are French nationals." 
  6. New York Times, Terror convictions overturned in France, February 24, 2009
  7. Mr. Aymen Sassi, Brother of Nizar Sassi, American Civil Liberties Union, March 9, 2004
  8. Relatives of detainees at Guantanamo tell of fear, anger: Families are in the US to put a face to what they say is the unlawful detention of suspected terrorists in Cuba, Taipei Times, March 9, 2004
  9. Nizar Sassi: A French Detainee Waiting to Return Home, Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism
  10. Remand for French Guantanamo four, Washington Post, August 1, 2004
  11. Nicolas Vaux-Montagny (2010-02-17). "France orders 5 former Gitmo inmates back to court". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 2010-02-17. 
  12. Tom Lasseter (June 15, 2008). "Guantanamo Inmate Database: Page 2". McClatchy News Service. Retrieved 2008-06-16.  mirror
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Tom Lasseter (June 15, 2008). "Guantanamo Inmate Database: Mourad Benchellali". McClatchy News Service. Retrieved 2008-06-16. "It was an al Qaida camp. Benchellali claims that he and Nizar had never heard of al Qaida and knew nothing about international terrorism. After they arrived, he said, they realized that the camp wasn't merely for religious studies and wasn't at all what they had hoped to find. In fact, all al Qaida camps were military training facilities." 
  14. "Paris Court Acquits Former Guantanamo Detainees". Huffington Post. 2009-02-24. Retrieved 2009-02-24. 
  15. Christopher Hope, Robert Winnett, Holly Watt, Heidi Blake (2011-04-27). "WikiLeaks: Guantanamo Bay terrorist secrets revealed -- Guantanamo Bay has been used to incarcerate dozens of terrorists who have admitted plotting terrifying attacks against the West – while imprisoning more than 150 totally innocent people, top-secret files disclose". The Telegraph (UK). Archived from the original on 2012-07-13. Retrieved 2012-07-13. "The Daily Telegraph, along with other newspapers including The Washington Post, today exposes America’s own analysis of almost ten years of controversial interrogations on the world’s most dangerous terrorists. This newspaper has been shown thousands of pages of top-secret files obtained by the WikiLeaks website." 
  16. "WikiLeaks: The Guantánamo files database". The Telegraph (UK). 2011-04-27. Retrieved 2012-07-10. 
  17. "Nizar Sassi: Guantanamo Bay detainee file on Nizar Sassi, US9FR-000325DP, passed to the Telegraph by Wikileaks". The Telegraph (UK). 2011-04-27. Retrieved 2012-09-. 
  18. Jay W. Hood (2004-03-27). "Update Recommendation to a Transfer to the Control of Another Country for Continued Detention (TRCD) for Guantanamo Detainee, ISN: US9FR-000325DP (S)". Joint Task Force Guantanamo. Archived from the original on 2011--06-06. Retrieved 2014-02-27.  16x16px Media related to at Wikimedia Commons

External links

fr:Nizar Sassi