Information on use of Shannon ‘rendition’ sought

THE GOVERNMENT has been asked for information relating to the use of Shannon in the “extraordinary rendition” of a Guantánamo Bay detainee who could face the death penalty.

The request was sent to the Taoiseach on Friday last by lawyers representing Binyam Mohamed, a UK resident arrested in Pakistan in 2002 and held in Guantánamo Bay.

He has been charged there before the US Military Commission with terrorist offences which carry the death penalty.The request is made under the Freedom of Information Act.

This follows a previous request for information about two flights alleged to have been involved in Mr Mohamed’s rendition which were made to Mr Cowen at the beginning of August.

His private secretary responded “on an interim basis” on August 13th, stating the Government’s opposition to the “appalling practice of so-called extraordinary rendition”.

The letter also stated that the Government had received categoric assurances that no rendition had taken place through Ireland, and that no evidence had been produced that any individual had been subject to extraordinary rendition through Ireland.

The Government assured Mr Mohamed’s lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, that his request was being urgently examined by relevant Government departments, but added that the information he sought may not be available to Irish authorities.

In response, Mr Stafford Smith, a US-trained lawyer with a background in representing prisoners on Death Row who works for human rights group Reprieve, said he was not arguing that any prisoners were rendered through Irish territory, but that CIA aircraft and crew criminally implicated in rendition to torture stopped on Irish territory en route to and from their illegal missions.

“Even if prisoners were not transported directly through Irish territory,” he said, “the movements and activities of these agents must be investigated, as should how Irish authorities came to be complicit in these activities.”

Accordingly, he is seeking information on two flights, already identified by the Council of Europe as having been involved in rendition, that stopped in Shannon on July 22nd, 2002, which he said had illegally rendered Mr Mohamed to torture in Morocco, and a flight that stopped in Shannon on September 17th, 2004, en route to rendering Mr Mohammed from Rabat in Morocco to Kabul, Afghanistan.

The information sought includes flight records, the names and passport details of all those on board, the name of the hotel where they stayed and records of the hotel, including telephone records, and records surrounding the flight, including documents filed by US representatives and private corporations involved in the planning of the trips.

The case against Mr Mohammed is based on confessions he made which he claims were made under torture after his “rendition” to third countries. The torture included beatings, sleep deprivation, starvation and the cutting of his genitals with a razor.

His lawyers seek information on what happened to him between his arrest in Pakistan in April 2002 and his arrival in Guantánamo Bay in May 2004, in order to substantiate his claims of torture.

Already, they have scored a success in the High Court in London, which last week gave the British foreign secretary, David Miliband, until Friday next to agree to hand over information possessed by the UK government about the case.

UK intelligence agents were involved in the questioning of Mr Mohamed while he was detained in Pakistan.

However, the UK government conceded to the High Court it did not know, and still did not know, his whereabouts between April 2002 and May 2004, during which he claims he was being tortured.

© 2008 The Irish Times