Binyam Mohamed: police probe MI5 torture claims
The Met has been called in to investigate claims that British secret services were complicit in the torture of a UK resident
The Attorney-General, Baroness Scotland, announced today that the Metropolitan Police is to investigate whether an MI5 officer was complicit in the torture of a UK resident, Binyam Mohamed, by American intelligence officers.
In an unprecedented move, the police will examine whether British law was breached as a result of our spy's involvement. If sufficient evidence is found against him, he will be tried in a civilian court, though the proceedings would be secret, with only the verdict published.
Gordon Brown, commenting from Brazil, said: "I have always made clear that when serious allegations are made they have got to be investigated. I have also been clear that this government does not tolerate or endorse torture."
Binyam Mohamed spent seven years in custody - but was never charged
The investigation arises out of a High Court ruling on Binyam Mohamed's case released last month by two judges, Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones. They claimed they had been prevented from publishing key details of Mohamed's alleged mistreatment and Britain's role in it - even though it was clearly in the interests of justice - because the US had threatened to withdraw intelligence co-operation from Britain if they did so.
Binyam Mohamed spent a total of seven years in American custody - including four years in Guantanamo Bay - before he was finally returned to London last month. He was never charged with any crime.
The Americans claimed Mohamed had undergone terrorist training at al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan: Mohamed maintains he visited the country in order to study Islam and kick a drugs habit. An Ethiopian-born UK resident, he was first arrested in 2002 at Karachi airport in Pakistan on suspicion of plotting to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb" in the United States.
He was taken into custody and over three years, in a series of prisons in Pakistan, Morocco and Afghanistan, he claims he was tortured and interrogated using questions supplied by British intelligence. He was finally shipped to Guantanamo where he spent a further four years in confinement.
One key aspect the police will examine is the case of an MI5 officer who flew to Karachi in 2002 to question Mohamed. The officer has been known as Witness B since he gave evidence in a High Court judicial review last year.
What the police will have to establish is whether it is true, as alleged, that Witness B told Mohamed that his only way out of Pakistani custody was to co-operate fully, and that the officer knew where Mohamed would be subsequently taken. Or did MI5 - as they claim - supply information without having any knowledge of where Mohamed was being held or that he was being tortured?
The Lib Dems' foreign affairs spokesman, Edward Davey, welcomed Baroness Scotland's announcement today. But he doubtless spoke for many when he said that the "wider question of the Government's policy on rendition and torture throughout the Bush and Blair years will remain unanswered" until a full judicial inquiry was held.
Both Binyam Mohamed and his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, expressed anxiety that a single MI5 officer was not scapegoated. Stafford Smith said that Downing Street and the White House bore responsibility."I would be astounded if No 10 did not know," he said.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
Clive Stafford Smith, founder of Reprieve and lawyer for Binyam Mohamed, the Guardian: It seems very likely that Agent B was acting with authorisation and the question must be how far up the line that authorisation went, both in the UK and the US. Agent B must not be the scapegoat: if his actions were sanctioned, the person at the top of the chain of command who sanctioned those actions must be held responsible and accountable. Questions will need to be asked about who knew about the intelligence services' questioning of Binyam.
Lianne of Warminster, posting on the Times: So, Shami Chakrabarti [director of Liberty, who welcomed the investigation] is a happy bunny. Yet more money wasted on someone arrested carrying a false passport & who freely admitted his fascination with al-Qaeda.
The Mole, The First Post: The investigation could turn on one key point - that although MI5 officers were involved, there is no evidence to prove that they knew he was being tortured. If the police produce insufficient evidence to proceed, the Government will be accused of a cover-up. More worryingly, it could worsen relations with the Muslim community. ·
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