Rachid Mesli Remains Under House Arrest but Algerian Formal Request for Extradition "Vague and Incomplete" Says Italian Court

The Turin Court of Appeal said this morning that it would make a decision within five days as to whether to maintain or lift the restrictive measure of house arrest held against Alkarama's Legal Director, Rachid Mesli, since 22 August 2015. The Court also informed Me Mesli that the Algerian authorities had sent a formal request for extradition, although the information received was "vague and incomplete", and that it had therefore requested the Algerian authorities to send clarification and additional information without undue delay.

Composed of three judges, the Second Chamber of the Turin Court of Appeal, that has jurisdiction in extradition matters, held an in camera hearing this morning to establish whether to maintain or lift the house arrest measure against Me Mesli, as requested by his lawyer. As the Algerian authorities sent a formal request for extradition on 7 September 2015, the Public Prosecutor pleaded for Me Mesli to remain under house arrest until the expiration of the 40-day period by which the Algerian authorities can submit their formal request for extradition, as provided under article 715(6) of the Italian Code of Criminal Procedure. The Court therefore concluded that it would issue its decision within five days.

Talking about the Algerian request for extradition itself, the Court added that the information sent by the Algerian authorities was "incomplete" and "lacked mention of dates and facts," and that the Italian authorities had already asked the Algerian authorities to "urgently send the missing information." The Italian justice seemed indeed confused as to which procedure the arrest warrant and extradition request was based on, as the two different decisions to sentence Me Mesli to 20 years' imprisonment date from 2004 and 2008, respectively two and six years after the arrest warrant against Me Mesli was issued.

"I was expecting the Algerian authorities to confirm their extradition request, even if I knew that their request would not be based on anything serious as usual," said Me Mesli to Alkarama after his hearing. "Since the Algerian authorities have sent a formal extradition request, I totally understand that the Public Prosecutor had to ask that I remain under house arrest until the expiry of the 40-day period, but I remain extremely confident in the Italian justice system."

"What is important," he stressed, "is that the Italian authorities asked the Algerian authorities to send further information without delay, so it does not seem that the Italian authorities will allow the Algerian authorities to delay the resolution of my case for as long as they did with Mourad." In January 2012, Alkarama's Executive Director, Mourad Dhina, had been arrested in France also on the basis of international arrest warrant issued in Algeria in 2005. Sending vague and incomplete information, the Algerian authorities had managed to delay the judge's final decision by six months, during which Mr Dhina had to remain in the Santé prison in Paris. On 4 July 2012, the Paris Court of Appeal had released him, qualifying the Algerian accusations as "grotesque."

As a reminder, Me Mesli was arrested at the Swiss-Italian border on Wednesday 19 August 2015 on the basis of an international arrest warrant issued by the Algerian authorities in April 2002, which claims that he had "provided telephone information to terrorist groups movements," and "attempted to supply terrorist groups with cameras and phones," twisting his work as a human rights lawyer, in constant contact with victims of human rights abuses and their families. On 22 August, the Italian justice decided to put him under house arrest instead of keeping him in Aosta prison, following several calls from various NGOs, institutions and personalities, as well as an important media coverage of his case.

For more information or an interview, please contact Alkarama's Media Coordinator, Colombe Vergès, on Dir: +41 22 734 1008 - Mob: +41 79 129 79 15 (c.verges@alkarama.org).