Salvatore di Nolfi / Keystone / AP

Rights lawyer on house arrest in Italy accused of aiding 'terrorist group'

Political refugee Rachid Mesli is awaiting possible extradition on a 2002 international arrest warrant issued by Algeria

Algerian human rights lawyer Rachid Mesli remains under house arrest in Aosta, Italy, following a hearing at a court in Turin on Tuesday.

Mesli, a political refugee who has lived in Switzerland since 2000, was detained Aug. 19 at the Swiss-Italian border on a 2002 international arrest warrant issued by Algerian authorities via Interpol.

The legal director of Alkarama Foundation, an independent outfit in Geneva focusing on rights issues in Arab countries, Mesli has been accused of providing "telephone information on a terrorist groups movement," and attempting to "supply terrorist groups with cameras and phones."

In a statement on the arrest, Alkarama said Algerian authorities are "twisiting his [Mesli’s] his work as a human rights lawyer in constant contact with victims of rights abuses and their families."

Amnesty International's asylum specialist Denise Graf told Al Jazeera America that while Tuesday’s hearing "positive" that Mesli’s ordeal is not yet over.

Mesli, she said, was "was given the opportunity to explain his situation and the judge was convinced about the arbitrariness of the whole procedure."

"This was only an intermediary hearing and no decision has been taken yet," said Graf, who had traveled to Italy to attend Mesli’s hearing.

According to a statement issued by Alkarama Foundation after the hearing, Algerian authorities have until Aug. 31 to formally demand Mesli’s extradition. Should that occur, a specialized judge would be appointed to the case - that judge has the authority to rule against the extradition.

But even if the extradition order is not issue by Aug. 31, the international arrest warrant will still remain in effect, meaning Mesli can at any point be subjected to a similar procedure whenever he travels.

Mesli was driving to Italy with his family for a vacation to Florence, Pisa and Siena when he was detained, Mesli told Al Jazeera America.

"I will face ill treatment and other human rights violations [such] as unfair trials," he said, when asked what he would face in the even of being extradited.

Although he knew about the arrest order, Mesli said he’d been able to travel freely until this recent incident.

"I have been controlled [questioned] in several countries … in England, Germany, Hungary, Turkey ... but I was never arrested," he said.

Algerian authorities had previously accused Mesli of terrorism after he worked as part of a legal team defending the Islamic Salvation Front, a banned group, in the 1990s.

He ultimately spent three years in prison on different charges — supporting terrorism. His 1997 trial was described by rights groups of having violated international standards for a fair trial.

Amnesty International’s Graf said she’d be surprised if Italy moved to extradite Mesli.

"It would be particularly surprising because the government under which Rachid Mesli has been judged in an unfair trial is still in place," she said.

The rights group routinely calls attention to Algeria’s rights violations.

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