By Robert Verkaik | A British resident who is facing the death penalty in Guantanamo Bay has made a final desperate plea to Gordon Brown to end his six-year ordeal and bring him home today.
In a letter delivered to Downing Street, Binyam Mohamed, the last Guantanamo inmate with the automatic right to British residency, calls on the Prime Minister to use his influence with President George Bush to stop an American military “kangaroo court” sending him to his death.
Mr Mohamed, 29, from Kensington, west London, who is expected to be charged by the Americans with terrorism-related offences in the next few days, claims he has suffered horrific abuse during more than six years in detention without trial.
He denies any involvement with terrorism and says any evidence against him has been extracted through torture while he was being questioned by American interrogators in a Moroccan prison.
In his letter, Mr Mohamed tells Mr Brown: “I have been held without trial by the US for six years, one month and 12 days. That is 2,234 days (very long days and often longer nights). Of this, about 550 days were in a torture chamber in Morocco and about 150 in the ‘Dark Prison’ in Kabul. Still there is no end in sight, no prospect of a fair trial.”
He blames Britain for supplying the Americans with personal information which was used against him when he was being questioned in Morocco and where he claims his interrogators used a razor to repeatedly cut his genitals.Mr Mohamed also alleges that the British Government is refusing to release vital evidence that would prove he was tortured.
Last year, three of the remaining five British residents held at Guantanamo Bay were flown home after representations were made by London. A fourth elected to negotiate his transfer to Saudi Arabia.
But the US has refused to comply with Britain’s request to release Mr Mohamed. In his letter, he pleads: “Because I am a Londoner, your Government states publicly that you support my right to return home there as soon as possible. I am grateful for that. I always viewed Britain as the country that stood up for human rights more than any other. That was why I came to Britain as a refugee.”
But he adds: “Before the intervention of your Government to help me, I was more resigned to my fate. To be held forever without a fair trial. When your Government intervened, I had hope. But it has been a cruel hope. Nine months later, I am still here, no closer to home, still in this terrible prison. When I learned that my Moroccan torturers were using information supplied by British intelligence, I felt deeply betrayed. When I learned that your Government’s lawyers [The Treasury Solicitors] had told my lawyers they had no duty to help prove my innocence, or even that I had been tortured, I felt betrayed again.”
Born in Ethiopia in 1978, Mr Mohamed came to Britain as an asylum-seeker in 1994 when he was 16. Although the claim was never finally determined, he was given leave to remain in Britain, where he stayed for the next seven years. But, after working as a caretaker, he developed a drug habit and, according to his legal team, went travelling to Pakistan and Afghanistan in 2001 in a bid to resolve his personal issues. He was picked up in Pakistan in April 2002 as he attempted to return to Britain. His lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, director of the human rights group Reprieve, said the UK Government has admitted he was questioned by British intelligence for three hours in Karachi in 2002.
According to Mr Mohamed’s evidence, the security service officer indicated to him then that he was to be taken to an Arab country — something his lawyers say shows British knowledge of the plan to render him to Morocco. They also believe that flight records relating to the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia could establish the route of his rendition flight.
Should Mr Mohamed be sent to trial at the Military Commission, the case will further strain relations between Britain and America. The UK is opposed to capital punishment and has been increasingly critical of the treatment of prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay.
Both Tony Blair and Mr Brown have called for the closure of the prison camp at the US naval base in Cuba which still holds nearly 300 inmates, many of whom have been unlawfully detained for more than five years.
The former attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, also expressed concerns about the legally flawed system of the military tribunals, set up to try non-US citizens and which one law lord likened to “kangaroo courts”. Any convictions supported by findings from the military commissions are bound to provoke an international outcry. Human rights lawyers regard the tribunals as an affront to natural justice because they do not comply with the rules to ensure a defendant receives a fair trial.
Mr Mohamed’s own account of the abuse he claims to have suffered includes a graphic account of being tortured in Morocco: “They cut all over my body, including my private parts, saying it was better just to cut it off as I would only breed terrorists. This went on for weeks every day. I felt like I was being stung by a million bees at once. The floor was full of blood … All this time they kept reading out their [story] to me and saying if you say this story as we read it, you will just go to court and all this torture will stop. I could not take any more of this torture and, after months of torture, I repeated what was read out to me. That lessened some of the torture but it was not over.”
Recent medical reports indicate Mr Mohamed may have reached the end of his psychological tether. In his letter to Mr Brown, Mr Mohamed writes: “It is long past time to end this matter. I have been next to committing suicide this past while. That would be one way to end it, I suppose.”
The men who have been released
One of the so-called ‘Tipton Three’ detained in 2002 for over two years by the US, in Afghanistan and Camp Delta. Released March 2004
Born in West Bromwich and left school at 16 to work in a local factory. Released March 2004
Born in Dudley, West Midlands, he travelled to Pakistan in October 2001. Family lost contact in December 2001. Released March 2004.
Born in Entebbe, Uganda. Released on 25 January 2005.
Former care worker in east London. Told family he was flying to Pakistan in 2001 to learn Arabic. Released March 2004.
Web designer from Manchester. Believed to have been captured while a Taliban prisoner in Kandahar Jail. Released in March 2004.
Ran a bookshop in Sparkhill, Birmingham. Released January 2005.
Algerian deserter who came to Britain in 1999. Granted refugee status in UK in 2000. Released December 2007.
Joint citizen of both the UK and Zambia. Released January 2005.
Accused of association with the Taliban and al-Qa’ida. Released January 2005.
Iraqi citizen, who became resident in the UK in the 1980s. Released April 2007.
Jordanian with refugee status in the UK. Rel-eased December 2007.
Libyan granted refugee status by the UK in the 1980s. Released December 2007.
Shaker Abdur-Raheem Aamer
Originally from Saudi Arabia, living in UK since 1996. Release being negotiated by Saudi Arabia.