Freed Guantanamo prisoner alleges torture

Last updated 07:03 24/02/2009
Reuters
TORTURE ALLEGED: Freed Guantanamo detainee, Binyam Mohamed (with the white cap), leaves an aircraft after arriving at RAF Northolt, west of London.

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A British resident held at Guantanamo Bay for more than four years has returned to Britain a free man and accused the US government of inflicting "medieval" torture on him – with British collusion.

Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian citizen with British residence, was returned on a charter flight after the US government agreed last week to a British request to free him. All charges against him were dropped and he was never tried.

He is the first Guantanamo Bay detainee to be freed since US President Barack Obama came to power with a pledge to shut the prison. Human rights groups say 241 Muslim detainees remain at the camp, including one other British resident.

Mohamed, 30, said he was "neither physically nor mentally capable" of facing the media after nearly seven years in captivity, but in a statement he denounced the US government.

"I have been through an experience that I never thought to encounter in my darkest nightmares," he said via his lawyers in a statement issued shortly before he stepped gingerly off an airplane at a British military airport looking thin and frail.

"Before this ordeal, 'torture' was an abstract word for me. I could never have imagined that I would be its victim. It is difficult for me to believe that I was abducted, hauled from one country to the next, and tortured in medieval ways – all orchestrated by the United States government," he said.

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Mohamed began his detention in April 2002 when he was seized at an airport in Pakistan for trying to travel on a friend's passport. He was held for four months, during which time he says he was tortured and abused by Pakistani intelligence agents in the presence of British intelligence officers.

In July 2002, he said he was taken to Morocco on a CIA plane and again tortured and abused for 18 months before a transfer to Afghanistan and then finally to Guantanamo Bay in September 2004.

Mohamed says his genitals were cut with a scalpel, he was suspended from his wrists and he was subjected to "waterboarding," or simulated drowning, while in detention.

Morocco has denied holding him and the United States has denied he was subjected to "extraordinary rendition."

"The very worst moment came when I realized in Morocco that the people who were torturing me were receiving questions and materials from British intelligence," Mohamed said.

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"I had met with British intelligence in Pakistan. I had been open with them. The very people who I had hoped would come to my rescue, I later realized had allied themselves with my abusers."

Britain's attorney general has said she will see if there is evidence to order an investigation into the actions of the British government and its agents. Documents relating to his treatment are classified in Britain and the United States.

Lawyers for Mohamed said on Monday they could not rule out bringing a lawsuit against the British government, and human rights groups are calling for a public enquiry.

Mohamed was a legal resident when he left Britain in June 2001 to travel to Pakistan and is expected to have that status now that he has returned. A former heroin addict, he originally travelled to Pakistan to try to turn his life around after converting to Islam, his lawyers have said.

US authorities never charged him but at one time accused Mohamed of receiving training from al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan and of conspiring to detonate a "dirty bomb" on the US transport system. Mohamed has denied receiving training, but has confirmed he visited Afghanistan as well as Pakistan.

Shortly after his return to Britain, police said he had been detained under a section of the anti-terrorism law pertaining to port and border controls but had not been arrested.

Following his return, Shaker Aamer, a Saudi Arabian with a British wife, remains the only British resident in confinement at Guantanamo Bay, where he has been since 2005.

- Reuters

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