The Truth

Will Gordon Brown help last British resident of Guantánamo receive a fair trial after six years of abuse, or let him face the death penalty based on "evidence" obtained by torture? .........

Stewart Cowan, 1/6/08

London resident, Binyam Mohamed, who has been held by the American military for more than six years without trial, has now been charged with terrorism-related offences and will face a US Military Commission and could face the death penalty.

In a press release by the charity Reprieve who are representing him:

"Mr. Mohamed faces a military commission in Guantánamo Bay based exclusively on evidence derived from his torture. From 21st July 2002 until 21st January 2004, he was rendered by the CIA to Morocco where he was tortured with a razor blade to his penis. From January to May 2004, he was tortured further by US military in the ‘Dark Prison’ in Kabul. He now faces a Guantánamo military commission, characterized by Lord Steyn as a ‘kangaroo court’ and condemned by all parties in the UK. The British government holds evidence that could be the key to proving his innocence. Lawyers for Mr. Mohamed requested that the government turn this evidence over. The government lawyers refused, writing that “the UK is under no obligation under international law to assist foreign courts and tribunals in assuring that torture evidence is not admitted”"

The BBC's Newsnight has revealed that earlier this year Foreign Office officials sent an e-mail to the foreign secretary saying there were "serious allegations" that Mr Mohamed had been tortured. They suggested that Britain should ask the US to investigate, but so far there has been no response.

Mr Mohamed came to Britain as an asylum seeker from Ethiopia in 1994 when he was 16. His claim was never finally determined, but he was allowed to remain in Britain.

He worked as a caretaker in Kensington, London, but developed a drug habit which, according to his legal representatives, was the reason he travelled to Pakistan and Afghanistan in 2001 to try and resolve his personal issues.

He was stopped in Pakistan the following year as he tried to return to Britain.

The Independent reports that, "The Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Teather, chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Guantanamo Bay, said: "The American government have disgracefully undermined their own case by allowing Binyam Mohamed to be subjected to such horrendous abuse.""

"If Binyam Mohamed has committed a crime, then it is right that he is charged and brought to justice. However, any trial process must be fair, open and transparent. Holding people for years on end without charge or trial breaches every single value that the war on terror purports to defend."

Mr Mohamed has also written to Gordon Brown saying he felt "deeply betrayed" by the UK and "I always viewed Britain as the country that stood up for human rights more than any other."

His lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, director of Reprieve, said Mr Mohamed was innocent of any allegations relating to terrorism and added: "We do not ask anyone merely to accept Mr Mohamed's claims, but we do ask that he be given an open trial in which to present to a fair jury and that he be allowed access to the evidence with which to prove his case."

Mr Mohamed's legal team has instructed lawyers to challenge the British Government in court over its alleged retention of evidence that would prove Mr Mohamed had been tortured and rendered to Morocco.

See also Student researching al-Qaida tactics held for six days for downloading manual from US government website, and MI5 accused of colluding in torture of terrorist suspects.

Reprieve's Press Release (pdf) continues:

Mr. Mohamed’s allegation was found credible by the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC). The Government chooses to ignore the ISC’s conclusion: “There is a reasonable probability that intelligence passed to the Americans was used in [Binyam Mohamed]’s subsequent [Moroccan] interrogation.” See Intelligence and Security Committee Rendition Report (July 2007)."

Richard Stein of Leigh Day & Co solicitors, representing Mr Mohamed in the proceedings issued in the High Court, said “Mr Mohamed has been the victim of extraordinary rendition, horrific torture, years of detention without trial, all apparently with the assistance of or, at least, the Nelsonian blindess of the British Government. It beggars belief that they will not lift a finger to help a British resident when he may face the death penalty.”

Lt. Col. Yvonne Bradley, US Airforce and military defense counsel for Mr Mohamed, joined the lawyers’ request for help from the UK government. “I have been charged with defending Mr. Mohamed to the best of my ability,” she said. “I cannot pretend that the US military commissions are fair, but how can we possibly hope to help Mr. Mohamed if his own government leaves him to his fate?”

Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve’s Director, has represented Mr. Mohamed for three years. “The moral compass of this government seems to have caught a very perverse magnet,” said Mr. Stafford Smith. “Since when could we criticize the US for ‘kangaroo courts’ in Guantánamo while simultaneously leaving Binyam Mohamed to be condemned based on evidence tortured out of him with a razor blade to his penis? Abolishing a 10 percent tax rate is one matter; abandoning our commitment to the Convention Against Torture is quite something else.”

STOP PRESS..... Los Angeles Times....

Judge critical of Guantanamo war crimes case is dismissed

MIAMI -- A judge hearing a war crimes case at Guantanamo Bay who publicly expressed frustration with military prosecutors' refusal to give evidence to the defense has been dismissed, tribunal officials confirmed Friday........

[Army Col. Peter] Brownback [III]had threatened to suspend the proceedings against Khadr unless prosecutors handed over Khadr's medical and interrogation records since his July 2002 capture in Afghanistan.

Khadr's Navy lawyer, Lt. Cmdr. William C. Kuebler, had asked for the records months ago, and Brownback had ordered the government to produce them.

The lead prosecutor in the Khadr case, Marine Maj. Jeffrey Groharing, this week reiterated to Brownback his view that the defense wasn't entitled to the records. He urged the judge to set a trial date.

Brownback said during an April hearing that he had been "badgered and beaten and bruised by Maj. Groharing" to set a date but couldn't do so in good conscience when the prosecution was withholding evidence.

Brownback revealed in a November 2007 session that Pentagon officials had made clear they "didn't like" his decision the previous June to dismiss the Khadr case for lack of jurisdiction. That ruling was overturned a few weeks later by a hastily assembled Court of Military Commission Review.

Asked about Brownback's removal, Air Force Capt. Andre Kok, a tribunal spokesman, said it was "a mutual decision between Col. Brownback and the Army that he revert to his retired status when his current active-duty orders expire in June."

Human rights monitors saw Brownback's dismissal as indicative of political influence on the tribunal.

"The fact that Judge Brownback has now been taken off the case, without explanation, creates the appearance of political meddling and highlights why these commissions cannot be considered full, fair and independent," said Jennifer Daskal, senior counter-terrorism counsel for Human Rights Watch.

"The message of the Pentagon's decision seems to be that it is unwilling to let judges exercise independence if it means a ruling against the government," said Jamil Dakwar, human rights program director for the American Civil Liberties Union.

The whole LA Times article is here Judge critical of Guantanamo war crimes case is dismissed