|US threatens Britain over terrorism 'torture evidence'
The US Government has threatened to halt intelligence co-operation with
Britain in a row over the alleged torture of a 'terrorism' detainee at Guantanamo Bay being made public. The
Telegraph | February 5, 2009
Telegraph | February 5, 2009
Binyam Mohamed, a British resident held at the American base, has launched a legal challenge in the High Court in London for documents detailing his treatment to be made public.
However, two judges ruling on the case said that David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, had advised that releasing the documents could lead to America withdrawing intelligence co-operation.
This, it was warned, could lead to Britons facing a “very considerable increase in the dangers they face” from terrorism.
The judges reveal that the secret documents at the centre of the case “give rise to an arguable case of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment”. It is also disclosed that a British intelligence official may have been present when Mr Mohamed alleges he was tortured. The judgement raises the prospect of criminal charges being brought against British officials.
Mr Mohamed, who was born in Ethiopia, sought political asylum in Britain in 1994 and was granted leave to remain in this country. He was captured in Pakistan in 2002 while attempting to return to London on a false British passport.
The Muslim convert was initially questioned by MI5 before being passed to the Americans. He was then held “incommunicado, initially in Pakistan and then at secret and undisclosed locations until May 2004”. He claims he was subjected to “extraordinary rendition to Morocco where torture continued in a severe form”.
Between May and September 2004, Mr Mohamed made confessions to his involvement with Al-Qaida and plotting terrorist attacks. He was initially charged with terrorist offences, including a dirty bomb plot, although the charges have now been dropped.
He has been on hunger strike for much of the past month and is expected to be released shortly and returned to Britain.
The judgement reveals that the High Court was minded to release the information – provided by both the American and British Governments – describing his treatment since being captured.
But, the judges said that in the opinion of the Foreign Secretary there is a real risk that, if the redacted paragraphs were restored, then "the US Government, by its review of the shared intelligence arrangements, could inflict on the citizens of the United Kingdom a very considerable increase in the dangers they face at a time when a serious terrorist threat still pertains".
They said they had to find a balance between national security on the one hand and the public interest in open justice, safeguarding the rule of law, free speech and democratic accountability.
"In the circumstances now prevailing, the balance is served by maintaining the redaction of the paragraphs from our first judgment," they said.
"In short, whatever views may be held as to the continuing threat made by the US Government to prevent a short summary of the treatment of Mohamed being put into the public domain by this court, it would not, in all the circumstances we have set out and in the light of the action taken, be in the public interest to expose the UK to what the Foreign Secretary still considers to be the real risk of the loss of intelligence so vital to the safety of our day-to-day life."
It was also revealed that Mr Miliband had recently checked and that Barack Obama’s administration was standing by the threat.