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Ministers, MI5 deny UK colludes in torture

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

London, Feb 12, IRNA -- Foreign Secretary David Miliband joined with Home Secretary Alan Johnson Friday in warning that accusations of Britain’s security and intelligence agencies being complicit in torture were “dangerous for the country.”

“The allegation that our security and intelligence agencies have licence to collude in torture is disgraceful, untrue and one that we vigorously deny,” the two cabinet ministers said.

“The government's clear policy is not to participate in, solicit, encourage or condone the use of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment for any purpose,” they said in an unprecedented open letter to the press.

Their denial coincided with the head of MI5 issuing a robust defence of the security services in the wake of the Foreign Office being forced to publish damaging CIA evidence regarding the torture of former Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed.

In a rare article published in the Daily Telegraph, Jonathan Evans insisted that MI5 was protecting the country from "enemies" who would use "all the tools and their disposal", including “not just bombs, bullets and aircraft but also propaganda.”

"We will do all that we can to keep the country safe from terrorist attack. We will use all the powers available to us under the law,” Evans said.

On Wednesday, a seven-paragraph CIA summary to UK intelligence officials was published showing that Mohammed’s treatment in Pakistan in 2002 was "cruel, inhuman and degrading" after three senior judges dismissed an appeal by Miliband to keep the evidence secret.

In his joint letter with Johnson, the foreign secretary said the government was very concerned that coverage of the Mohamed case will leave a “false impression about the work and ethics, not to mention the accountability, of our security and intelligence agencies.”

“This is not just unfair on the staff concerned, but dangerous for the country. If allegations of wrongdoing are made, they are always taken seriously, and referred, if necessary, to the appropriate authorities,” they said.

The ministers admitted that US authorities appeared to have “changed the rules of engagement for their staff in the fight against inter national terrorism” after 9/11, but insisted that the UK did not follow suit.

“When this became clear to us, agency guidance to our own staff was changed to make clear their responsibilities not just to avoid any involvement or complicity in unacceptable practice, but also to report on them,” their open letter said.

“To suggest that the government fought this case to avoid embarrassment or save face is just plain wrong,” it said.

The attempt to stop the publication of the CIA evidence was about “protecting our intelligence-sharing relationships, which depend on confidentiality.”

The ministers also denied that the government tried to influence the court “improperly,” saying that to suggested three of the most senior judges were “bullied is a slur not just on the government but also on them.”

Ethiopean-born Mohamed was arrested in Pakistan over a visa irregularity in 2002 then handed over to US officials.

He was secretly flown to Morocco and Afghanistan before being confined in Guantanamo in 2004 until his release last year when all charges against him were dropped.

Two weeks after his release, the BBC published claims that British intelligence (MI5) had colluded with his interrogators by getting them to ask him specific questions which led to his making false confessions of terrorist activities.

Accusations of Britain’s alleged collusion in torture have been raised in more than two dozen cases surrounding British residents and nationals, including several cases going to court to seek redress.

Reprieve, the legal firm representing Mohamed, have warned that the CIA evidence was “only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to British complicity in torture” and that there was “much more is to come.”


End News / IRNA / News Code 959200

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