ALEXANDRIA: Swiss authorities halted a few days ago an investigation into American secret service agents suspected of illegally transferring the kidnapped Egyptian preacher Abu Omar through Swiss airspace to a German airbase in 2003.
The Egyptian cleric himself, however, claims he had no knowledge of the existence of such a probe in the first place.
“I don’t understand it myself. I didn’t know about the Swiss investigation at all, Abu Omar told Daily News Egypt when asked his opinion on the freezing of the case.
The Swiss suit was reportedly opened in February 2007 on allegations of breach of international law in the transport of Abu Omar over Swiss airspace. Italy, where Abu Omar was kidnapped, had previously launched a legal case against 26 Americans in the alleged operation – all but one identified by Italian prosecutors as CIA agents. The trial is still pending.
The Swiss investigation on the other hand was suddenly frozen in late 2007.
The case was suspended in November 2007, said Jeannette Balmer, a spokeswoman for the Swiss federal prosecutor s office. Balmer refused to provide further comments on the matter, said an AP report.
It was in early 2003 that agents of the CIA kidnapped Abu Omar in Milan, Italy on terrorist suspicions and allegedly transported him via Italy and Switzerland over to Ramstein airbase in Germany before the plane reached its final destination in Cairo.
The kidnapping of the Muslim preacher, whose full name is Osama Hassan Mustafa Nasr, is one of the most publicized cases of extraordinary rendition.
Abu Omar maintains he was subject to constant torture and abuse during his four-year detention in Egypt at various state security facilities and prisons. For much of the time, Abu Omar claims he was held incommunicado and had no access to his lawyers or family.
Following a legal merry-go-round that resulted in his release, re-arrest, and even disappearance, he was finally ordered release by a State Security Court in February 2007.
Since then, the cleric has been reunited with his wife and lives a rather quiet life in his hometown of Alexandria.
Abu Omar is currently writing his memoirs, which he hopes to publish soon as a series in a prominent Egyptian newspaper.
“I want to tell people about my life before and after the kidnapping. I want them to know who Abu Omar is, he told Daily News Egypt.
Against the wall in his living room lies a large bag shock-full of hundreds of Christmas letters with season’s greetings dedicated to him and his family from supporters around the world.
“I want to let you know that we’re thinking about you and all the suffering you and your family have gone through, reads one card from Britain.
Since his return to Alexandria almost a year ago, the former alleged terror suspect has also taken up blogging; a hobby that has not been particularly popular with state security, he says.
Shortly after he joined Egypt’s vibrant blogospere in July last year, he claims security shut down two of his blogs following his postings of elaborate poems describing his kidnapping and alleged torture.
Despite previous hardships, Abu Omar has not thrown in the towel and plans to open a new blog.
“I want to have one of those blogs where I can put up pictures and videos of my life, but I don’t know how to do it. I have to learn, continued Abu Omar with a smile.
Life goes on for the former ghost detainee extraordinaire, but he claims his situation is still that of a prisoner.
When he went to Cairo airport a few days ago to pick up a family member returning from Italy, Omar argues he was interrogated by security officials for an extended period of time.
A year ago, however, the preacher was allegedly not even allowed to leave Alexandria without permission from state security.
“I can’t travel outside Egypt, I can’t get a job. I can’t hold lectures in the mosque. Usually I spend my days at home reading and browsing the internet and going to the nearby mosque to pray, he said.
The next hearing of the Italian trial is scheduled for March.