Britain discloses secret data on detainee’s abuse

Britain was forced by an appeals court on Wednesday to reveal a long-secret description of how a former terrorism suspect was beaten, shackled and deprived of sleep during interrogations by US agents.

Updated: Feb 11, 2010, 11:42 AM IST

London: A former Guantanamo Bay inmate was shackled and warned he would "disappear" if he refused to cooperate with US interrogators, Britain revealed on Wednesday after losing a lengthy court battle.
Ethiopia-born British resident Binyam Mohamed was arrested in Pakistan in 2002, and says he was tortured there and in Morocco before being flown to Guantanamo Bay and charged with plotting with al Qaeda to bomb American apartment buildings.

The seven-paragraph description is a judge`s summary of classified information shared by the CIA with the UK`s MI5 intelligence service during Mohamed`s questioning in Pakistan in May 2002.

British government has repeatedly denied complicity in torture, and claimed that revealing the information would damage US-British intelligence cooperation.

Mohamed`s lawyers claimed the seven paragraphs prove that the US and British governments were complicit in extracting evidence against him through torture.

The paragraphs posted on the Web site of the British Foreign Office after the court decision say Mohamed was subjected to "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the United States authorities," including sleep deprivation, shackling and threats resulting in mental stress and suffering, during interviews by US authorities.

They conclude that the paragraphs given to MI5, "made clear to anyone reading them that BM (Mohamed) was being subjected to the treatment that we have described and the effect upon him of that intentional treatment."

The charges against Mohamed were later dropped.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of the rights group Liberty, said a "full and broad" public inquiry into British complicity in torture is needed in light of the information contained in the newly-released paragraphs.

"It shows the British authorities knew far more than they let on about Binyam Mohamed and how he was tortured in US’ custody," she said. "It is clear from these seven paragraphs that our authorities knew very well what was happening to Mr Mohamed. Our hands are very dirty indeed."

She said it is now evident that British authorities were complicit in the use of torture and benefited from it.

US’ reaction

In Washington, a statement by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, said the ruling was "not helpful”.

"The protection of confidential information is essential to strong, effective security and intelligence cooperation among allies," the statement said. "The decision by a United Kingdom court to release classified information provided by the United States is not helpful, and we deeply regret it."

The appeals court decision upheld a High Court ruling ordering officials to release the summary. The Foreign Office appealed that ruling, but said on Wednesday it would abide by the latest judgment.

"The wider point here is that we stand firmly against torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. We don`t condone, collude in or solicit it," Prime Minister Gordon Brown`s spokesman Simon Lewis told reporters following the decision.

Bureau Report