British Government Loses Court Battle Over Former Guantanamo Detainee
Selah Hennessy | London 10 February 2010
A British court has ordered the government to disclose secret intelligence about the treatment of a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, who alleges he was tortured while in U.S. custody with the knowledge of British agencies.
After the court's ruling, the government in London released seven paragraphs of information from U.S. intelligence documents concerning the treatment of Binyam Mohamed. The Ethiopian-born British man was arrested in Pakistan in 2002 on suspicion of terrorism involvement.
The British government wanted to keep those seven paragraphs secret because it said the information could harm national security and hinder intelligence sharing with the United States.
But speaking Wednesday, Britain's Foreign Secretary David Miliband said he supported the court's verdict.
He said intelligence-sharing has not been undermined because a U.S. court judgment has already publicly discussed Mohamed's treatment. "We have fought this case and brought the appeal to defend a principle we believe is fundamental to our national security that intelligence shared with us will be protected by us," said Miliband.
Binyam Mohamed moved to Britain when he was a teenager. He was arrested by Pakistani forces in 2002 and was later transferred to Morocco and Afghanistan. In 2004 he was moved to Guantanamo Bay but charges against him were later dropped and he was returned to Britain in 2009.
He says he was tortured in Pakistan and in Morocco and says he suffered beatings, sleep deprivation, and genital mutilation.
The information released Wednesday describe Mohamed's treatment as 'cruel, inhuman, and degrading'.
Claire Algar, from the human rights group Reprieve, says the paragraphs make it clear that British intelligence knew about Mohamed's inhumane treatment. "The important paragraph does bring the knowledge of the British security services into play," said Algar.
She says the ruling will help to undermine a culture of secrecy that she says is growing in Britain.
"What has happened recently is that David Miliband and the British government have simply sited the 'national security' defense in relation to anything they don't want to tell the British public and so basically the national security defense has been used in relation to instances of essentially national embarrassment," said Algar.
Britain's intelligence agency has said it did not know Mohamed was being tortured or held in Morocco.
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