Mosa Zemmouri was born to Moroccan parents near Antwerp, Belgium in 1978. As a young man, he travelled to Syria where he memorised Quran, studied Arabic and Islamic sciences, Hanafi fiqh in particular.

Student of knowledge

In search of knowledge and to further his Islamic studies, he traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan where he learnt from different teachers.
In Jalalabad, however, he caught malaria, which caused him to put his studies on hold.
After 9/11, US carpet bombings of Afghanistan forced him to flee the country. He crossed the border and presented himself to the first Pakistani police station so that he could return to his native Belgium.

Kidnap and rendition to Guantanamo

Instead of putting him in contact with his embassy, the Pakistani authorities abducted him and sold him to the American forces, which had offered bounties of up to $5000 for any Arab or foreigner present in the region at the time.
He was then illegally rendered to a detention facility in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
In February 2003, he was transported to Guantanamo Bay prison, aged only 23, where he was incarcerated for the next three years without any charge or trial.


During those three years, he was repeatedly blindfolded and beaten with metal chairs. His head was banged against a wall and ice cold water was poured over him. He was also threatened with death and placed in solitary confinement.


Among the allegations laid against him was that he was a member of the GICM, a Moroccan armed group.
Mosa Zemmouri consistently maintained he had no knowledge of this group. Some experts think that this group actually does not exist.
Among the allegations to justify his detention was that he had a Casio watch at the time of his kidnap. The cheap watch, which was widely available, was said to be a “sign of Al Qaeda”.
During his detention, the president of the Administrative Board Review asked him about his opinion about the United States.
“I don’t know the US (…) I have an opinion of the camp,” he said.
“Unjust, no human rights in this camp.”
When he was asked where he would go if he were to be released, he said: “To my parents.”
Eventually, the US cleared him of any wrongdoing.


Mosa Zemmouri was released an innocent man and transferred to Belgium on 25 April 2005, having spent over three years detained without charge or trial. To this day, he has not received any compensation or apology.
Upon his return, he was investigated by the Belgian authorities, who entirely cleared him of any wrongdoing.
Doctors however found that he suffered from a “severe post-traumatic syndrome” due to his torture.

Seeking accountability for Belgian complicity

In 2010, Mosa Zemmouri launched a legal action against the Belgian state for its complicity in his illegal detention and torture.
It appears that the Belgian authorities were aware of his detention as early as 7 February 2002, but did nothing to assist him during three years.
On the contrary, his lawyers said that the Belgian authorities assisted the United States against their own citizen and turned a blind eye to his torture even though they saw evidence of it when they visited him at the camp.


After his release, Mosa Zemmouri attended several conferences campaigning for the rights of the detainees of the War on Terror, opening events with his mesmerising recitation of the Quran.
His touching psalmodies were viewed hundreds of thousands times on YouTube and were translated in several languages.
In 2010, he wrote his autobiography, the first of its kind in Dutch. He also appeared on television recounting his experience.
Mosa took part in Witness to Guantanamo, an oral history project documenting the human rights abuses and rule of law violations that took place at Guantanamo Bay. He recounted his time in solitary confinement and hunger strike.


After his release, he continued to be stopped, detained and questioned, especially at ports and airports all across Europe, as he explained to the Witness to Guantanamo project.
“When [former Guantanamo detainees] go somewhere, they are harassed,” he said.
“They [European countries] show me we are the worshipers of America.(…) We will harass  you everywhere, because our God is America.”

Arrested in Belgium

In July 2015, four men were arrested at night near a residential building in the region of Antwerp. It is believed they were about to rob the flat of a drug dealer.
Mosa Zemmouri, who was not at the location, was arrested later.

Unfounded allegations

The Belgian authorities immediately alleged in the media that a weapon had been recovered in his car and that he had assisted the four men to commit the robbery by providing information in order to finance terrorist activities in Syria.
However, when pressed by the lawyers, the police admitted that no weapon had been found in his car. Rather, they had searched his neighbour’s car and found a Taser.
Furthermore, the alleged head of the group arrested at the scene admitted that he had received the information necessary to commit the robbery from a fifth man, not Mosa Zemmouri.
Investigators found numerous communications between the alleged leader of the group and the fifth man. The confession and the communications led to the fifth man’s arrest.
Nevertheless, the fifth man was immediately released.
To support their case, the authorities also said they found a cap and a flag with Arabic writings: there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is His prophet”.

Fundamental rights to defence violated

According to Belgian law, no one can be charged before being interrogated by a judge on the allegations laid against him. However, Mosa Zemmouri was charged before he was given the chance to explain himself.
Likewise, an individual can only be kept in detention if the court responds to the arguments made in defense of the accused. In this case, the court ordered his detention without responding to any of the legal and factual arguments made by the the defense.
Pieces of evidence must also be made available by the police before court appearance. Here, neither the judge nor the court could access it.
Finally, his lawyer argued that the investigation was not impartial since the investigators “deliberately and
exclusively sought to prove (Mosa Zemmouri’s) guilt based on incorrect deductions and ambiguous interpretations”.
For example, investigators have repeatedly translated the expression “mzaa za”, crazy person in Moroccan dialect, as referring to a taser. According to lawyers, paperwork shows investigators know the correct translation but have chose to ignore it during the investigation.
Likewise, investigators have interpreted the word “married” as meaning “dead”. However, such interpretation renders the conversation nonsensical.

Solitary confinement

Mosa was immediately placed in isolation. He is not allowed to speak or even see other detainees. Guards are not allowed to speak to him either. Visits are allowed only behind a glassed window and phone calls only last for a few minutes.
He is kept under those conditions pending investigation.
CALL TO ACTION: Please see here for the urgent appeal for legal funds for Mosa Zemmouri. 

(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)