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Thursday, February 05, 2009

So is it the British or U.S. government interfering with the investigation of torture?

Reprieve client Binyam Mohamed is a victim of “extraordinary rendition” and torture. He was initially held illegally in Pakistan for four months, where a British intelligence agent interrogated him under circumstances later found to be probably illegal by the British court. He was rendered to Morocco by the CIA on July 21, 2002, where he was tortured for 18 months, with the British government apparently supplying information and questions used by the Moroccan torturers. On January 21, 2004, he was rendered a second time, to the secret “Dark Prison,” an underground prison in Afghanistan, where his torture continued. Since September 2004, he has been held in Guantánamo Bay. He has never been tried for any crime.

Yesterday the High Court in London held in a judgment that details of Binyam’s ill-treatment at the hands of the US and Pakistani authorities should not be published because the US authorities had threatened to withhold intelligence sharing with the UK, should the information be made public.

The Judges stated that they had been informed that the threat remained in place even after the change of administration in the US. They were deeply critical of this stance, which prevented them from ordering disclosure of information they ‘consider so important to the rule of law, free speech and democratic accountability’. They noted that no national security interests were at issue in the documents themselves. However, the Judges stated the US threat to downgrade its intelligence relationship with the UK would harm UK national security.

In an astonishing sequence of events following the judgment, the Foreign Secretary conceded that the Obama administration had not actually been approached and stated that in fact no threat regarding intelligence sharing had ever been made by the US. These admissions by the Foreign Secretary would seem to undermine the whole basis of the Court’s reluctant decision to refuse to publish details of Binyam’s torture.

Leigh Day & Co Solicitors and Reprieve are accordingly seeking to re-open the case (Mohamed v. Secretary of State) on the basis that the judgment relied on ‘misleading evidence’ provided by the UK Government.

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