Gitmo Detainee Free After 7 Years

(AP Photo/Lewis Whyld/PA Wire)
After four years in Guantanamo, and nearly seven years in the custody of the U.S., or one of its allies, a former British resident walked down the steps of an executive jet at a U.K. airbase.

Binyam Mohamed's return to the U.K. may prove to be deeply embarrassing, for both the British and American governments. Mohamed claims he was brutally tortured in a covert Moroccan prison run by the CIA, and that British intelligence agents were complicit in his torture.

Britain's government has insisted that it does not condone torture, and that post 9/11 its agents have never been involved in torture.

In a statement released by his lawyers, Mohamed said, "I have to say, more in sadness than in anger, that many have been complicit in my own horrors over the past seven years. For myself, the very worst moment came when I realised in Morocco that the people who were torturing me were receiving questions and materials from British intelligence."

Lawyers for the Ethiopian born U.K. resident say evidence of his torture, and of the involvement of members of Britain's intelligence services (MI5 and MI6; respectively, the domestic and foreign agencies) is in 42 classified documents held by the British government.

The British and American governments are fighting court challenges to make the documents public on grounds of national security.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband told Parliament "our intelligence relation with the U.S. is vital to the security of the U.K.," and produced a letter, authored by the legal advisor of the U.S. State Department, John Bellinger III, to bolster his argument.

That letter, in part, said "the public disclosure of these documents or of the information contained therein is likely to result in serious damage to U.S. national security and could harm existing intelligence information arrangements between our two governments."

That was interpreted as a threat by both the British media, and by the U.K. High Court. Judges harshly criticised the American government for "interference" in British affairs.

But a former Bush administration official told CBS News that the letter to the U.K. government was written at the specific request of the British government, and that both the U.K. and the U.S. wanted to ensure the documents remained secret. Mr. Miliband has now been accused of deception, and has been asked to provide an explanation.

The director of public prosecutions is considering a criminal investigation into the actions of the security services, and there will be more scrutiny from the parliamentary committee charged with their oversight. Members of the committee have been told by lawyers for Mohamed, who have seen the documents, that their contents would make it "impossible" for the committee to clear the services of wrong-doing.
  • Sheila MacVicar

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