Monday, February 23, 2009

Guantanamo Bay inmate back in UK

Terror suspect and Guantanamo Bay inmate Binyam Mohamed has been returned to the UK. Landing at RAF Northolt in west London it brings an end to more than 7 Years in detention by US authorities. The Gulfstream jet touched down at 13:10 GMT. The Ethiopian refugee came to Britain as a teenager, but his residency has since expired. British authorities say they will review his immigration status in due course. In the meantime he will be offered temporary leave to remain granted under the 1971 Immigration Act.

Mohamed was detained in Pakistan in 2002 and taken into US custody. Under the practice of rendition he was flown to Morocco then back to Pakistan. At both locations Binyam Mohamed insists he was tortured. Whilst in Pakistan he was visited by a British MI5 officer. Mohamed claims he was threatened by the officer. On offering Mohamed a cup of tea he was allegedly asked how much sugar he would like. Mohamed asked for one sugar, after which he alleges the officer replied, “You’ll need a lot more sugar than that where you’re going”. The issue is now part of a case that Mohamed and his lawyers are making against US and UK authorities, who he says were complicit in his alleged torture. Following he detention in Morocco and Pakistan, Mohamed was later flown to Guantanamo Bay, also known as Camp X-Ray and Gitmo.

Sky News International Correspondent Tim Marshall said he was likely to be released upon arrival. However, his legal residential status and his insistence that British intelligence were complicit in his alleged torture, will make the British government uncomfortable. “There is little doubt he had been tortured. The question is whether the UK government were complicit,” Tim Marshall said.

In a press conference prior to his arrival a spokesman read a statement in which Mohamed said he had a responsibility to those still held in Guantanamo Bay. Of his own detention, Mohamed said the worst moment came in Morocco when he “realized his torturers were receiving information and questions and materials from British intelligence”. He thanked all those who had helped in securing his release and said that he was “not asking for vengeance, only that the truth be known”.

After leaving Guantanamo Bay he was handed to UK authorities and transferred to a British military aircraft. His shackles and orange jumpsuit had been removed prior to his long journey which stopped over briefly in Bermuda before flying on to the UK. With him were two Foreign Office officials, a Metropolitan Police officer and at least one doctor. As Binyam Mohamed’s long detention comes to an end he leaves behind 241 detainees at Guantanamo Bay. There are also thousands of other terror suspects held without trial by US authorities around the world, many unnamed and unknown even to their own families.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband made only a short statement prior to Mohamed’s arrival. He said he was “pleased” to hear of the release and said it was a “result of years of very hard work of officials and with his team”. He also sent a message to the new US administration saying, “We very much welcome President Obama’s commitment to closing Guantanamo Bay” adding that it was the “first step of a shared goal” [BBC / Sky News / al Jazeera]

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