Algerian human rights lawyer held in Italy: reports

Rome (AFP) - Italian border police have detained an Algerian human rights lawyer who is the subject of an international arrest warrant but who lives in Switzerland as a political refugee, Italian media said Friday.

Rachid Mesli was held on Wednesday as he crossed the Great St-Bernard border tunnel by car from Switzerland with his wife and one of his three children.

Police in the northwestern Italian border town of Aoste were unable to confirm the Italian media reports when contacted by AFP.

As a lawyer in Algeria in the 1990s, Mesli defended the leaders of the country's banned Islamic Salvation Front.

In 1997, he was himself sentenced to three years in prison for supporting terrorism following a trial later described as biased by Amnesty International.

Three years later he was granted refugee status in Switzerland, where he established Al Karama, an association which fights for human rights in Arab countries.

He is the subject of an international arrest warrant issued through Interpol by the Algerian authorities, who accuse him of terrorism.

Italian media said Mesli must now await a decision by an appeals court in the city of Turin on whether to extradite him.

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