Government apologises for torture cover-up

THE government has apologised to two High Court judges after discovering that an MI5 officer misled them over the case of a British terrorist suspect allegedly tortured while in America’s extraordinary rendition programme.

Lawyers for David Miliband, the foreign secretary, said it was “a matter of great regret” that during “a full and independent review of the case” they had uncovered 13 new documents suggesting that the official account of Britain’s knowledge of what was happening to Binyam Mohamed was inaccurate.

The documents reveal as false the claim by a senior MI5 manager, known as witness A, in the High Court last year that the last information MI5 received from the CIA about Mohamed’s whereabouts was in February 2003. One letter says: “A sentence in the open witness statement of witness A, which stated the last interview report received by the Security Service was in February 2003, is incorrect.”

Mohamed, 31, has always claimed British intelligence officers were complicit in his treatment. His lawyers have forced the government to hand over 42 secret documents that support his assertions, including that MI5 officers interviewed him in Pakistan.

The government solicitors’ letter to Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones continues: “Their disclosure at this stage is a matter of great regret. We offer our apologies on behalf of all concerned.”

Mohamed, a British resident, flew home to Britain in February after release from Guantanamo Bay prison. He had been detained in the US extraordinary rendition programme since being arrested in Pakistan in 2002 on a false British passport.

He is considering legal action against the UK government over his claims that he was tortured in Pakistan with the complicity of MI5. He spent time in “dark prisons” in Pakistan, Morocco and Afghanistan before being sent to Guantanamo in September 2004.

MI5 told the High Court last year that after February 2003 it had no knowledge of Mohamed’s whereabouts. At that time Mohamed was in a prison in Morocco, where he says his testicles were cut with a razor as part of a long and humiliating series of torture sessions.

The new documents were unearthed after detailed questioning of MI5 by the Intelligence and Security Committee. Two documents were initially discovered, prompting government lawyers to order further searches of MI5 and MI6 files.

Last month the attorney-general, Baroness Scotland, ordered an investigation by Scotland Yard into allegations that MI5 officers had tortured Mohamed.

By David Leppard and Kevin Dowling