Toggaherer’s Weblog

A British resident detained at Guantanamo Bay for more than four years

Posted on: February 24, 2009

A British resident detained at Guantanamo Bay for more than four years

A British resident detained at Guantanamo Bay for more than four years has said he is “extraordinarily happy to be home” in the UK. 

Ethiopian-born Binyam Mohamed, 30, was released on Monday afternoon after he landed at RAF Northolt in London and underwent questioning by police. He was questioned for nearly five hours, before being driven off to an unknown destination arranged for him by his legal team. 

The Home Office said he would be given temporary admission until a decision is made on whether he can stay permanently in the UK. 

Col Yvonne Bradley, the US military lawyer who has worked for Mr Mohamed’s release, told a press conference he had lost “at least 40 to 50 pounds” and would need time to recover from his prison ordeal. She added that mentally “he was not in the best condition”. 

Clive Stafford Smith, director of legal charity Reprieve which represented Mr Mohamed, said his client was now looking forward to recovering in peace and to spending time with his sister, who he had not seen for seven years. 

Mr Stafford Smith said “He [Binyam Mohamed] is just extremely happy now. He comes out of Guantanamo extremely grateful for all the support that he’s had in a very dark time.” 

He added: “He’s not angry, he’s sad, he’s lost seven years of his life… I think he’s just very grateful to Britain for having him back. 

“He just wants to go to a place we’ve got him for tonight where he can be by himself with his sister and he can try to get his life together again.” 

But Mr Stafford Smith also said Britain was in part culpable for abuse suffered by Mr Mohamed. 

He said: “Britain knew he was being abused and left him there and he ended up going to Morocco for two years of the most horrific nightmare imaginable. 

Mr Mohamed says he was tortured while in custody on suspicion of terrorism. 

He said his worst moment was when he realised his alleged torturers were receiving material from UK agents. 

Mr Mohamed arrived at lunchtime after a nine hour flight from the US-owned detention camp in Cuba. 

‘Horrific nightmare’ 

He was questioned for nearly five hours, before being driven off to an unknown destination arranged for him by his legal team. 

The Home Office said he would be given temporary admission until a decision is made on whether he can stay permanently in the UK. 

Col Yvonne Bradley, the US military lawyer who has worked for Mr Mohamed’s release, told a press conference he had lost “at least 40 to 50 pounds” and would need time to recover from his prison ordeal. She added that mentally “he was not in the best condition”. 

Clive Stafford Smith, director of legal charity Reprieve which represented Mr Mohamed, said his client was now looking forward to recovering in peace and to spending time with his sister, who he had not seen for seven years. 

Mr Stafford Smith said “He [Binyam Mohamed] is just extremely happy now. He comes out of Guantanamo extremely grateful for all the support that he’s had in a very dark time.” 

He added: “He’s not angry, he’s sad, he’s lost seven years of his life… I think he’s just very grateful to Britain for having him back. 

“He just wants to go to a place we’ve got him for tonight where he can be by himself with his sister and he can try to get his life together again.” 

But Mr Stafford Smith also said Britain was in part culpable for abuse suffered by Mr Mohamed. 

He said: “Britain knew he was being abused and left him there and he ended up going to Morocco for two years of the most horrific nightmare imaginable. 

“The least we owe to him is to give him his home back because he lost his home due to that process.” 

In an earlier statement Mr Mohamed said the worst moment of his ordeal was when he released British intelligence agents were feeding information to his torturers. 

He said in the statement: “I have met with British intelligence in Pakistan. I had been open with them. Yet the very people who I had hoped would come to my rescue, I later realised, had allied themselves with my abusers.” 

The former Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, said the government had to do something “fairly substantial” in order to bring speculation of collusion to an end. 

He said: “These are very serious allegations. Either they are true, in which case they need to be pursued, or they’re not in fact true. It’s a misunderstanding or an exaggeration, in which case the sooner people know that the better.” 

Shared goal 

Foreign Secretary David Miliband said he was pleased Mr Mohamed had returned to the UK. 

He said: “We very much welcome President Obama’s commitment to close Guantanamo Bay and I see today’s return of Binyam Mohamed as the first step towards that shared goal.” 

A Foreign Office spokesman said the allegations that British officials were complicit in Mr Mohamed’s alleged torture were currently being examined by the Attorney General.

He stressed the allegations about torture were raised with the US authorities a year ago and “discussions were ongoing”. 

Mr Mohamed was held in captivity for a total of seven years – four of them in Guantanamo – after being arrested in Pakistan in 2002. He had lived in the UK from the age of 15. 

The US had accused Mr Mohamed of involvement in a plot to detonate a “dirty bomb” in America, but the charges were dropped in October last year. 

The US Department of Justice said that his release was “consistent with the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice”. 

Earlier this year Mr Mohamed went on a month-long hunger strike at Guantanamo and his legal team said he was “close to starvation”. 

But last weekend he was declared well enough to travel back to the UK by a team of British officials who had visited him. 

His lawyers insist he poses no risk to the UK. 

One other UK resident, Shaker Abdur-Raheem Aamer, remains in Guantanamo Bay after being detained in Afghanistan in 2001. 

Two other Guantanamo inmates claim to have been living in the UK prior to their detention, but those claims are disputed. 

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