|US says 9/11 suspect planned Heathrow attack |
James Sturcke and agencies
Thursday September 7, 2006
The terror suspect accused of masterminding the September 11 attacks also planned to crash hijacked airliners into Heathrow airport, according to documents released by the US government.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed conceived a plot to hit Heathrow after the attacks on America five years ago, the documents from the US office of the director of national intelligence said.
Another alleged al-Qaida member Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, described as a "key facilitator" in 9/11, was said to have been a "lead operative" in the UK plan, which the US said was disrupted in 2003.
The details emerged in profiles (pdf) of 14 terror suspects, including Mohammed and Bin al-Shibh, who, the US announced yesterday, have been transferred from secret CIA prisons around the world to Guantánamo Bay in Cuba :
Profiles of the 14 terror suspects
|Bush presses Congress to pass antiterrorism laws|
By Matt Spetalnick
Thursday, September 7, 2006; 1:46 PM
ATLANTA (Reuters) - President Bush pressed Congress on Thursday to approve new military tribunals to try terrorism suspects, a day after he admitted the CIA ran secret prisons overseas where accused militants were detained.
In his latest speech marking the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the United States, Bush sought to rally public support for his anti-terrorism strategy in the face of formidable court challenges and international condemnation.
Bush hopes lawmakers will give him a security-policy victory before November's congressional elections, in which Republicans are fighting to keep control.
Beset by low approval ratings, he has tried fend off criticism over the unpopular Iraq war and cast the campaign as a choice of whether his Republican party or their Democratic rivals are best able to fight terrorism.
Speaking at a public policy forum in Atlanta, Bush also urged Congress to endorse his administration's domestic eavesdropping program.
"I will continue to use every element of national power to pursue our enemies and to prevent attacks on the United States of America," Bush said.
Bush said on Wednesday that 14 high-profile suspects held by the Central Intelligence Agency, including accused September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed, had been transferred to the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo.
It was Bush's first public acknowledgment of the CIA overseas detention program. The program had provoked European anger and accusations of violations of international law when it was disclosed earlier in news reports.
European lawmakers on Thursday demanded that their governments reveal the locations of secret CIA prisons.
The administration launched several counterterrorism programs after September 11, in a go-it-alone approach that has started to backfire.
The Supreme Court in June struck down as unconstitutional the military tribunals the administration set up to try terrorism suspects, and Bush now wants Congress to let him create courts very similar to those he originally planned.
Bush said the sooner Congress authorized the new tribunals the sooner al Qaeda suspect Mohammed will "receive the justice he deserves." His proposed bill rivals an effort by several key Republicans that would afford detainees greater rights.
Last month, a federal judge in Michigan ordered the Bush administration to stop the wiretap program, saying it violated civil rights. The administration has appealed.
"The surest way to keep the program is to get explicit approval from the United States Congress," Bush said on Thursday.
|Guantanamo Bay Inquiry|
A survey of 493 FBI personnel who were asked whether they observed aggressive mistreatment, interrogations or interview techniques of GTMO yielded 26 positive responses and several additional responses that were "not purely negative." These responses culminated in a 9/2/04 request through FBI's OGC to conduct a "GTMO, Counterterrorism Division, Special Inquiry" re 9 of the incidents identified. The conclusion was that there was no FBI involvement in the target interview techniques -- only outside entities. Following is a list of the positive and "not purely negative" responses that prompted the inquiry. Note that these documents have been vetted by both DoD and FBI, and that FBI believes this or substantially similar information has already been released in this litigation.
| Five years of Camp X-Ray: Why are two British residents still in Guantanamo Bay?|
Because the UK will not let them home to join their families despite accepting they have spent four years in jail for no reason...
An extraordinary legal wrangle has left two men with British families languishing for four years in Camp X-Ray, where they are at breaking point
By Marie Woolf, Political Editor
Published: 07 January 2007
Two British residents left languishing for years in Guantanamo Bay despite being charged with no offence are suffering such serious health problems their lawyers warn they may never recover.
Bisher al-Rawi, who is locked in solitary confinement in a 6ft by 8ft cell, is gradually "losing his mind" and is in danger of irreparable damage to his mental state after five years of incarceration and torture.
On the fifth anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo Bay this week, lawyers acting for two UK residents are to warn the Foreign Secretary that the psychological deterioration of Mr al-Rawi is so serious that he may be unrecognisable as the "same person" unless he is swiftly released. His friend Jamil el Banna, who was seized with him five years ago by the CIA, is diabetic and, because he does not receive an appropriate diet, is beginning to lose his sight.
The men, known in Guantanamo as prisoners number 905 and 906, have not been charged with an offence and are not deemed enough of a security risk to be incarcerated in the UK or even for a control order to be imposed. Indeed, Mr al-Rawi was trusted enough to be recruited by MI5. While British citizens in Guantanamo Bay have returned to the UK, these two have been left in limbo. Ministers argue they have no responsibility to bring them back to the UK because, although their families are British and they have lived here for years, they do not hold UK passports.
Yesterday senior politicians said it breached the men's human rights to keep them in Guantanamo Bay. Sir Menzies Campbell, whose request to see the prison's conditions has been refused, said: "Guantanamo Bay violates every accepted principle of law. It is not enough for the Prime Minister and government ministers belatedly to condemn Guantanamo; they must accept their moral responsibility towards those British residents who have been left to languish."
This week MPs will argue the two Britons should be returned to their families in the UK to face any charges against them. In a Commons debate tomorrow, Ed Davey MP will call on the US to give the UK residents a fair trial.
"If the British government doesn't act urgently to meet its moral obligations there is a danger there won't be much left of Bisher al-Rawi to bring home," said Mr Davey, MP for Kingston and Surbiton. "He is in a horrendous situation and all his rights have been chucked out of the window."
After five years of imprisonment, Mr al-Rawi's mental health has deteriorated to such an extent he now talks to himself constantly. Lawyers who have visited the 39-year-old Iraqi citizen say that his behaviour verges on hysteria and fear he may be losing his grip on reality. Jamil el Banna, who is in a lower-security wing, suffers from excruciating pains in his leg and his eyesight is beginning to fail because the US authorities refuse to give him extra salad in his diet.
For the MPs and lawyers campaigning to have the men returned to their families in Britain, it is hardly surprising that they are suffering extreme trauma. Both men were snatched five years ago by the CIA while on a business trip to Gambia. After a tip-off by MI5, they were arrested by Gambian authorities in 2002 and taken on a secret CIA flight to the Dark Prison in Kabul by masked Americans who claimed they were from "the embassy".
Once in Afghanistan they were beaten, starved and held in 24-hour darkness. The men were played heavy metal music at deafening volumes. Like many Guantanamo inmates, they can recite the lyrics of Eminem and Metallica.
While in Kabul they were manacled and chained to the wall and even had their clothes cut off. They were then flown to Guantanamo, where they have been kept in outdoor cages, shackled and blindfolded, and subjected to sustained isolation and sleep deprivation. Mr al-Rawi was beaten up so badly by the guards that his ribs were broken.
Since last March Mr al-Rawi has been held in solitary confinement in the notorious Camp V, which is cut off from the rest of the prison. In his tiny cell, the lights are kept on 24 hours a day and the men are kept in solitary confinement and under constant camera surveillance. They have no human contact except with guards who escort them to the shower. They are shackled, manacled, blindfolded and made to wear ear muffs if they are moved for interrogation which is known, euphemistically in Guantanamo, as " reservation".
But despite the constant questioning, and evidence against them provided by the UK security services, neither man has been charged with plotting any crime. Mr el Banna is considered so low a security risk he was permitted last year to talk for an hour by phone to his wife in London. Mr al-Rawi, far from acting as a threat to Britain, even received a visit from an MI5 officer in Guantanamo who told him he had not come to interrogate him but to say hello.
The detainees came to the attention of the British authorities because they were friendly with the radical cleric Abu Qatada, who is in custody and is seen by some as a key operative in al-Qa'ida. Both men admitted to being close to the radical cleric, but they insist their relationship was social. Lawyers who have seen classified evidence against them say there are no valid grounds for their detention. They believe any evidence against them would be thrown out in court. The main evidence that they are "enemy combatants" is the existence of an electronic device in their luggage which turned out to be a battery recharger sold at Argos which had been modified so it was waterproof.
"Britain handed them over to the US to be tortured and held without trial. They now have it within their power to have these men released," said Sarah Teather, MP for Brent East. Mr el Banna is one of her constituents.
Air conditioning is also shut off for up to a week at a time, subjecting the prisoners to temperatures of up to 95F with no fresh air. At other times the air conditioning is blasted at maximum so that the prisoners freeze with only a single sheet to cover them. When Mr al-Rawi attempted to cover himself in his prayer mat for warmth, it was removed for "misuse".
"My fear is that if Mr al-Rawi is not released imminently from prison or at least from Guantanamo's Camp V, he will no longer be Mr al-Rawi," said Zachary Katznelson, a lawyer with the campaign group Reprieve. "My concern is that they will not bring him home until he is very mentally damaged."
Before he was taken to Guantanamo the 39-year-old was described as a humorous and good-natured "playboy". The great-great-grandson of a former prime minister of Jordan, he came from a privileged family background and attended Millfield public school and London University, where he studied engineering but dropped out before graduating. He was born in Iraq but fled to Britain with his family aged 14 after his father was arrested and tortured by Saddam Hussein's regime.
He was open about his friendship with Abu Qatada and acted as a translator and a go-between for MI5, delivering messages given to him by agents and collecting information about his views for the service. But when his brother asked to go into business with him he leapt at the chance. With Jamil el Banna he devised plans to start to a mobile peanut oil factory in Gambia. It was on a trip to the West African state to establish the plant that he was seized.
Mr el Banna does not come from as privileged a background as his friend. A Palestinian with Jordanian citizenship, he sold cars at auction and is said to be a devoted family man. His five children, the youngest of whom he has never met, eagerly await his return from their north London home and write regularly to their father. But their statements such as "I love you daddy" are taken out by the US censors.
Although Mrs el Banna has worked hard to shield her children from the truth about Guantanamo, it is clear that Anas, aged 10, is well aware of what happened to the father who disappeared from his life when he was five. " They just kidnapped him and took him to Guantanamo, just because he never had the English passport. Everybody has to know that my dad went to jail for no reason," he said. "He always writes in the letters 'I just want to come back'. I tell him I like maths and computer and that I love him."
Ironically, the Americans say that the two men could in theory be released, but they argue they must be watched constantly by the security services if they return to Britain. In informal talks the UK is believed to have said it would be disproportionate to implement such stringent measures because the two men do not impose a sufficient security risk.
"We are not making representations on their behalf. They are not British citizens," said a Foreign Office spokesman. "We have no locus to make consular representations on their behalf."
A day in the life of Bisher al-Rawi
5am The prisoner is woken by guards banging on his cell door. The lights have been on through the night. The prisoner is told to return his cotton sheet, which he will not get back until nightfall.
8am The guards pass his daily ration of 15 sheets of toilet paper through a slot in the door. They are instructed not to talk, adding to the sensory deprivation.
9am Mr al-Rawi is served the first meal of the day: eggs, potatoes and water.
9.30am He is told to return the tray and plastic spoon through the slot.
11.30am Twice a week, the prisoner gets a rare treat: a shower. He is allowed out of his cell after being shackled and manacled and is taken to the shower by a guard. He is issued with a small piece of soap and watched at all times. He is allowed precisely five minutes.
12.30pm A lunch of cold halal chicken is passed through the slot in the door. No hot food has been allowed for the past five years. The plastic utensil is passed back through the door after 30 minutes.
3pm If he is lucky, this is the day for the prisoner's weekly letter writing session. He is issued with the internal part of a miniature Biro pen through the door. Again, the transaction will be carried out in silence.
3.30pm After 30 minutes, the slot on the door reopens and the prisoner is told to hand back the pen and paper. The letter is edited before being despatched.
5pm Mr al-Rawi hears neighbouring prisoners being taken to the exercise yard, but he will not be joining them, as part of the policy of denying him any social contact.
6pm A cold meal is passed through the door slot.
7pm The prisoner usually spends the next three hours pacing the 6ft by 8ft cell, talking to himself.
10pm The slot on the door opens for the final time of the day. He is issued with a sheet, but no blanket, and prepares his bedding on an inch-thick foam mattress.
Midnight The library cart rattles past cells but Mr al-Rawi is not allowed reading material, except a copy of the Koran.
1am The prisoner settles down to sleep. The fluorescent lamp in the ceiling will glare down all night.
|Brent Mickum, an American lawyer who also represents him, said al-Rawi was 'slowly but surely slipping into madness. Bisher's treatment is designed to achieve a single objective: to make him lose his mind.'|
| MI5, Camp Delta, and the story that shames Britain|
Bisher al-Rawi and Jamil el-Banna are among eight British residents who remain prisoners at the U.S. Naval Air Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. They are jailed because British officials rendered them into the hands of the CIA in Africa, a fact that may explain why the British government refuses to intercede on their behalf. Bisher and Jamil have been wrongfully imprisoned now for more than three years. This is the story of their betrayal by the British government and their appalling treatment at the hands of the CIA and the U.S. military.
By George B. Mickum
Published: 16 March 2006
The author, a partner with Washington law firm Keller and Hackman, represents Bisher al-Rawi and Jamil el-Banna. This exclusive report is compiled from conversations with his two clients, their declassified letters and declassified legal responses, and information provided by the US Military
Several weeks after 11 September 2001, two MI5 agents arrived at Bisher al-Rawi's family home to recruit him to work for British Intelligence. The visit was part of an effort to recruit scores of individuals from London's Muslim community for reconnaissance work and to assist the war on terror.
In particular, MI5 sought contacts with some of the Muslim clerics preaching in London. Mr al-Rawi was a perfect candidate, educated, fluent in English, and a friend of a Muslim cleric named Abu Qatada. The agents presented identification, introducing themselves to Mr al-Rawi as "Alex" and "Matt". However, they are the same names the agents used throughout the Muslim community in London.
The agents asked Mr al-Rawi wide-ranging questions, which he answered candidly. At the end of the meeting, they asked if would agree to speak to them again.
Two more meetings took place at Mr al-Rawi's family home in London. At the agents' suggestion, Mr al-Rawi started meeting them at a coffee shop in Victoria station. Shortly after, the agents asked Mr al-Rawi to work for MI5 on a more formal basis. He agreed. Over the next nine months, meetings took place in hotel rooms in and around London.
Throughout Mr al-Rawi's relationship with MI5, his agents pressured him to accept payment for his services. He refused all such overtures. The only thing Mr al-Rawi , 38, who is Iraqi born, ever accepted from MI5 was a mobile telephone. He took it to put an end to the agents' demand for him to be contactable.
As his work with MI5 continued, Mr al-Rawi became increasingly alarmed about his relationship with MI5 and his potential exposure. Eventually, he sought assurances from Matt and Alex that his work as an intermediary between MI5 and Abu Qatada would not get him into trouble. Ultimately, he requested a meeting with MI5 and a private attorney, suggesting the human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce. MI5 refused.
To assuage his concerns and convince him to continue working for MI5, the agents set up the first of two meetings with an MI5 lawyer whom they called " Simon". Alex and Matt were present at both meetings. Simon introduced himself to Mr al-Rawi as a lawyer with MI5. He conceded that Simon was not his real name. Simon assured Mr al-Rawi he was running no risk by working with MI5 and that MI5 and Simon himself would come to his aid if Mr al-Rawi found himself compromised. Simon told him that all he needed to do was record the date and time of his conversations with Simon, and MI5 would be able to identify and locate Simon. Mr al-Rawi's refusal to insist on a meeting with a private attorney would have devastating consequences.
Abu Qatada was completely aware of Mr al-Rawi's relationship with MI5. Mr al-Rawi carried questions and answers between the parties, served as a translator, and participated in negotiations with Abu Qatada. "All I did in Britain was try to help with steps necessary to get a meeting between Abu Qatada and MI5. I was trying to bring them together. MI5 would give me messages to take to Abu Qatada, and Abu Qatada would give me messages to take back to them."
It was during this time that Mr al-Rawi's good friend, Jamil el-Banna, a Jordanian British resident, became involved. While the British Government was publicly asserting that Abu Qatada's whereabouts were unknown, Abu Qatada was actively engaged in a dialogue with British officials that involved Mr al-Rawi and Mr el-Banna. Mr al-Rawi asked Mr el-Banna to drive Abu Qatada's wife and son to meet Abu Qatada in London. Mr el-Banna followed Mr al-Rawi, who led the way on his motorcycle. When Abu Qatada was arrested, Mr el-Banna taxied his wife and child home at the request of the British officials on the scene. Mr el-Banna never was arrested: the police thanked him for his assistance. He was never even questioned because everyone was aware of his limited involvement. Based on this involvement, he has been tortured and jailed for three years.
ARREST IN GAMBIA
Mr al-Rawi then turned his energy to his brother Wahab's long-planned mobile peanut oil factory, a project in Gambia.
Gambian authorities detained Mr al-Rawi, Mr el-Banna and their friends immediately after the group landed in Africa. Indeed, shortly after the arrest, Gambian authorities told the arrested group that the British had told them to make the arrests.
There is no question that British officials rendered Mr al-Rawi and Mr el-Banna into the hands of CIA officials in Africa in November of 2002. During one of Mr el-Banna's more than 100 interrogation sessions, his interrogator told him his adopted country had betrayed him
A British citizen, Abdullah El Janoudi, who accompanied Mr al-Rawi and Mr el-Banna to Gambia, confirms that a large American by the name of Lee told him British officials had the group arrested. He also confirms that during the interrogations that took place every two days, the CIA continued to press for incriminating evidence about Abu Qatada that linked him with al-Qa'ida.
In Africa, the CIA had a complete file on Mr al-Rawi that included his hobbies, information that can only have come from British Intelligence. Mr al-Rawi states that "from the very beginning in the Gambia the CIA said, 'The British told us that one of you was helping MI5.' By the second day in the Gambia, they [the CIA] were asking me to work for the US in Britain. I said I would not."
Although Mr al-Rawi's brother Wahab and another friend were released after a month and returned to England, Mr al-Rawi and Mr el-Banna were rendered at the end of 2002 in a CIA Gulfstream jet, one of a fleet of jets used by the CIA in its "extraordinary rendition" programme, in which the US transports victims to foreign countries for the express purpose of torture.
Mr el-Banna's account of his arrest reads:
Detainee: "When they came and arrested and handcuffed me, they were wearing all black. They even covered their heads ... They took me, covered me, put me in a vehicle and sent me somewhere. I don't know. It was at night. Then from there to the airport right away.
Tribunal president: An airport in Gambia?
Detainee: Yes. We were in a room like this with about eight men. All with covered-up faces.
Tribunal president: Were you by yourself at that time?
Detainee: Yes. They cut off my clothes.
Mr al-Rawi and Mr el-Banna were taken to the notorious "dark prison" in Kabul, Afghanistan. There, both men were imprisoned underground in isolation and darkness and tortured over two weeks. They were held in leg shackles 24 hours a day. They were starved, beaten, dragged along floors while shackled, and kicked. Round-the-clock screams from fellow prisoners made sleep impossible.
Subsequently, they were transferred to the US Air Force base at Bagram, Afghanistan. Although they were chained hand and foot and hooded, while waiting to be transported, their captors beat them. Mr el-Banna, in particular, was beaten repeatedly.
In Bagram, they were imprisoned and tortured for another two months. They were beaten, starved, and sleep deprived. What is particularly noteworthy is the fact that the only information the interrogators were interested in was information about Abu Qatada. Over the years, CIA and military interrogators have repeatedly attempted to suborn testimony from both men, linking Abu Qatada to al-Qa'ida. Mr el-Banna has repeatedly refused offers of freedom, money, and passports in exchange for false testimony.
Ultimately, both men were transported to Guantanamo, a trip so harrowing that a government informer, who was posing as a prisoner and had to be transported and treated the same as other prisoners, stated in a television interview that, at the time, he wished someone would shoot him. Forced to wear darkened goggles, face-masks and earphones, chained at the ankles, handcuffed behind their backs with thin plastic that caused incredible pain, and, in some cases, lasting damage, starving and sick prisoners who had been deprived of sleep were forced to maintain a sitting position, legs forward and chained without moving for nearly 24 hours.
If they moved they were beaten, kicked, hit with blunt objects. The government informer lasted barely one month in the intolerable conditions in Guantanamo before demanding freedom. During the first month at Guantanamo in which both were kept in strict solitary confinement, the pair were interrogated six hours per day and kept in the interrogation room for 14 hours per day, sometimes in freezing temperatures to induce hypothermia, one of the many techniques approved for use by the Bush administration. In some cases they were short-shackled, hands behind heels, for the entire time.
During his lengthy incarceration, Mr el-Banna has repeatedly asked his interrogators to administer a polygraph test, but the military has refused. However, the military's unwillingness to give him a lie detector deviates from standard prison policy. Former interrogators at Guantanamo confirm that a "passed" polygraph test is a prerequisite to be transferred to Camp IV, the lowest security prison camp on the base.
Mr el-Banna is in Camp IV. Mr al-Rawi, who also is in Camp IV, had a polygraph administered, but the military has refused to turn over the results and there is no mention of it in records produced by the military.
Indeed, the military has taken great pains to prevent any exculpatory information from creeping into the official records to ensure prisoners have no chance to exonerate themselves. In Guantanamo, Mr al-Rawi has met perhaps 10 different CIA agents. One agent who went by the name "Elizabeth" told him: "Don't think that leaving here will come without a price." Mr al-Rawi said: "She asked me whether I would work with them, and I said no. [She] suggested, 'How about working with MI5?'"
Mr al-Rawi's relationship with MI5 did not end with his arrest. He has met MI5 agents at Guantanamo on numerous occasions. He first met an MI5 agent in the early autumn of 2003, fully shackled. After some perfunctory questions and answers that confirmed his work with MI5, the agent offered him an oblique, belated apology: "Sorry about all this." Several months later, Alex, the MI5 agent with whom Mr al-Rawi worked in London, interrogated him at Guantanamo. Among other things, Mr al-Rawi told Alex the Americans wanted him to work for US intelligence.
In January 2004, Martin and Matt, the other two MI5 agents that Mr al-Rawi worked with in London, met Mr al-Rawi in an interrogation room. During that meeting, agents proposed that Mr al-Rawi return to working with MI5 upon his release. He agreed. The following day, the agents told him it would take them one to six months to get him home.
Former Guantanamo interrogators report that all prisoner interviews with foreign intelligence officials are videotaped. The trial judge in charge of both men's cases granted them motion to preserve that specific evidence along with copious other evidence we have managed to identify.
I advised the men more than one month before I travelled to Guantanamo in September 2004, advising them not to appear before the CSRT (Combatant Status Review Tribunal) or participate in the process. My letters were not delivered until after each had participated in his tribunal. I advised them against participating, among other reasons because the tribunals were permitted to rely on information obtained under torture. Both men were not even permitted to review all the evidence against them, and thus had no chance to defend themselves.
The following testimony from a CSRT proceeding demonstrates the Bush administration's commitment to providing prisoners with meaningful due process. In response to the charge "While living in Bosnia, the detainee associated with a known al-Qa'ida operative" the following colloquy, which could have been lifted from the pages of The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland, took place:
Detainee: Give me his name.
President: I do not know.
Detainee: How can I respond to this?
President: Did you know of anybody who was a member ofal- Qa'ida?
Detainee: No, no.
President: I'm sorry, what was your response?
Detainee: No. If you tell me the name, I can respond and defend myself against this accusation.
President: We are asking you the questions and we need you to respond to what is on the classified summary.
Although both men never were anywhere near Afghanistan or Iraq, never were involved in any wrongful activity, never possessed a weapon of any kind, they were powerless to defend themselves against the charge that they had associated with Abu Qatada, "a known al-Qa'ida operative", even though Abu Qatada has never been charged with any crime or been shown to be a member of or involved in al-Qa'ida. But, the full extent of both men's betrayal by MI5 does not end here.
At the tribunal, Mr al-Rawi testified under oath about his relationship with MI5 and his role as a liaison between MI5 and Abu Qatada. He informed the tribunal that MI5 had expressly approved of his role: "During a meeting with British Intelligence, I had asked if it was OK for me to continue to have a relationship with Abu Qatada. They assured me it was."
Mr al-Rawi requested that the MI5 agents Alex, Matt, and Martin appear before the tribunal to confirm his work with MI5 and Abu Qatada. Very much out of character, the tribunal president recognised the obvious importance of such testimony and "determined that these three witnesses were relevant". He instructed the military prosecutor to make inquiries and to determine whether the British Government would make the witnesses available .
The British Government not only refused to allow the witnesses to appear, it refused to confirm the accuracy of Mr al-Rawi's account, thereby ensuring both men's fate and consigning them to indefinite imprisonment. The following account is taken from Mr al-Rawi's CSRT:
President: Detainee has requested three witnesses who would testify that he supported the British Intelligence Agency. We have contacted the British Government and at this time, they are not willing to provide the tribunal with that information. The witnesses are no longer considered reasonably available, so I am going to deny the request for those three witnesses.
Later in the proceeding, the president issued the following clarification: " The British Government didn't say they didn't have a relationship with you, they just would not confirm or deny it. That means I only have your word."
Mr el-Banna's CSRT hearing was so procedurally defective that it would make good farce were the result not so devastating. The only evidence considered by the tribunal was that he drove Abu Qatada's wife and son to visit him during the time British authorities were engaged in discussions with him. In fact, his CSRT hearing was postponed and reconvened three times on 25 September, 28 September, 2 October and 9 October 2004 to allow the military's prosecuting attorney to collect and present additional evidence to the tribunal.
At the conclusion, Mr el-Banna's personal representative, a soldier and non-lawyer who could be compelled under the CSRT rules to testify against him courageously dissented from the tribunal's conclusion, including a formal statement in the CSRT record: "The personal representative states that the record is insufficient to prove that the detainee is an enemy combatant."
Although Mr al-Rawi disclosed his involvement with MI5 during our first meeting in 2004, he has been loath to go public with this information. But there are few options left available to both men.
Congress voted to ban torture by an overwhelming majority in December 2005, but President Bush signed the bill into law with a clarifying "signing statement" that allows him to ignore it whenever he chooses. Of more immediate concern is Congress's recent legislative reversal of the Supreme Court's decision to allow prisoners at Guantanamo to file petitions for habeas corpus . In response to the passage of the Detainee Treatment Act, the US government moved quickly to dismiss all of the habeas cases filed by prisoners at Guantanamo, including those filed by Mr al-Rawi and Mr el-Banna.
Neither man can return to the UK because their visas have expired. The British Government adamantly refuses to reissue them visas or allow them to return home on humanitarian grounds. If the cases are dismissed, the US military intends to transfer Mr al-Rawi to Iraq and Mr el-Banna to Jordan. There, each will be jailed with the host country's pro-American acquiescence. Recent reconnaissance indicates the US government is negotiating with foreign governments to jail prisoners from Guantanamo indefinitely.
Why the British Government has treated these two men as it has, I cannot say. What seems most likely is that they were simply expendable pawns in Great Britain's and America's attempt to create a case against Abu Qatada
My security clearance allows me to review all of the classified evidence in the cases, including all the evidence the tribunal relied upon to conclude that Mr al-Rawi and Mr el-Banna were enemy combatants. There is no evidence in the record, classified or unclassified, which supports the military's determination that these are enemy combatants. None.
The African business trip that ended in chains and imprisonment
By Robert Verkaik
Jamal el-Banna and Bisher al-Rawi were arrested at Banjul airport, Gambia, in November 2002 on suspicion of links to terrorism.
The two friends were in a party of five businessmen who were trying to start up a peanut oil venture. Two other British nationals detained at the same time were flown home.
The Government argues that Mr al-Rawi, an Iraqi citizen in his late thirties and Mr el-Banna, a Palestinian in his forties, who have both brought up families in Britain, are British residents with limited rights.
After their arrest, the two men were interviewed by the Americans and flown in chains to Bagram in Afghanistan. In early 2003, they were taken to Guantanamo Bay.
Last month Mr Justice Collins ruled that Mr el-Banna and Mr al-Rawi should have their case for judicial review heard in the High Court, and that claims of torture at the camp meant the Government might have an obligation to act. But the Government maintains: "It is only through ... their nationality that persons can ... enjoy the obligations placed on a state by international law."
|Details of Camp Delta inmates released to public|
By Kim Sengupta
Published: 06 March 2006
The US government has been forced to release documents giving details of those being held at Guantanamo Bay after years of refusing to do so.
The 5,000 pages of transcript were handed over by the Pentagon on the order of a judge in response to legal action brought under the Freedom of Information Act by the news agency Associated Press. Much of the Bush administration's "war on terror" remains shrouded in overwhelming secrecy. The US government has kept almost all information about the detainees secret since opening the prison in January 2002.
The transcripts made public only reveal unclassified information. The detainees and their legal representatives are not allowed to know, for example, what other evidence the US authorities may have on them.
However, even this limited glimpse into the closed world of Camp Delta shows the arbitrary nature of the arrests which led to hundreds being incarcerated, without charge, thousands of miles from home.
The Bush administration dismisses the detainees' claims of innocence without trying them. "They're bomb-makers,'' Vice-President Dick Cheney said recently. "They're facilitators of terror. They're members of al-Qaida and the Taliban. If you let them out, they'll go back to trying to kill Americans."
Bisher al-Rawi's family fled from Iraq to Britain 25 years ago. His father was a prominent businessman who was arrested and tortured by the regime of Saddam Hussein, the "brutal dictator" George Bush and Tony Blair invaded Iraq to ovethrow.
Mr al-Rawi was arrested in November 2002, with his brother, Wahab, while on a business trip to Gambia, in west Africa, to set up a peanut-oil processing plant.
Wahab was subsequently released. Jamal al-Banna, a refugee from Jordan who lives in London with his wife and five children, was also arrested at the same time and is also incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay.
Mr al-Rawi is accused of harbouring the Jordanian cleric Abu Qatada, described as Osama bin Laden's representative in Europe, in London, and also transporting the components of a "weapon of mass destruction".
According to Mr al-Rawi he had been helping the Security Service (MI5) monitor extremists in Britain's Muslim community. The "mass destruction" equipment, say his lawyers, was a battery charger.
After several months, he was flown out to Bagram airbase in Afghanistan. By March 2003, he had joined the 700 inmates at Guantanamo. He was taken for a lie detector test six weeks after he arrived, and passed it.
Mr al-Rawi has been classified as an "enemy combatant", which, according to the Bush administration allows that he be denied the rights as a prisoner of war under the Geneva Convention.
Mr al-Rawi claims that he was in regular contact with the Security Service (MI5) and had been monitoring Muslim extremists in Britain on their behalf. " On more than one occasion, after MI5 questioned me, I would go out to the community to find the answers," he said. "On three or four separate occasions, the questions involved Abu Qatada."
According to the transcript, the judge at Mr al-Rawi's tribunal at Guantanamo Bay said: "The British Government didn't say they didn't have a relationship with you, they just would not confirm or deny it. That means I only have your word what happened."
The British Government response, in effect a "no comment", was enough, said the judge, not to accept Mr al-Rawi's account.
Mohammed Gul was arrested at his home in eastern Afghanistan. US and Afghan forces found a Kalashnikov rifle in his house, and that made him a suspect in attacks carried out by the Taliban.
Mr Gul was accused of belonging to HIG, a terrorist organisation. He was captured at the same time as a recruiter for Pacha Khan, a renegade Pashtun Commander. Mr Gul denies belonging to HIG, and claims he had been working in Saudi Arabia as a driver for a supermarket and only came home to see his sick wife.
Mr Gul insisted the gun was for self protection. "I am a poor person," Mr Gul told the tribunal. "I have a small piece of land."
It is unusual for farmers in Afghanistan not to have guns. "They're all armed," said John Pike, director of Global Security. org a military policy think-tank based in Virginia. "If they weren't, they'd be in trouble. There are clan rivalries there. Without weapon they'd feel naked."
Mr Shah, another farmer, from the village of Galdon in Afghanistan, was arrested when he was walking through a bazaar. The US authorities say that Mr Shah was wearing an olive green military jacket and soldiers had spotted him with a group of men who had guns in their possession.
It is easy to buy military clothes in Afghanistan, a country that has experienced 30 years of warfare. Mr Shah said: "I was just walking in the street and I was captured. The next thing I found out is I am sitting here in Guantanamo Bay."
Mr Uyar had travelled to Afghanistan from Turkey in 2000. He is accused by the American authorities of staying with a known al-Qa'ida member in Kabul for two months before the war began and also of associating with a known radical Turkish religious group.
One of the key planks of the case against Mr Uyar, 24 at the time of his Guantanamo Bay tribunal, is that at the time of his capture he was wearing a Casio watch - a model, according to the US used in bomb-making.
"If it's a crime to carry this watch, your own military personnel also carry this watch, too," Mr Uyar told the military tribunal. "Does that mean that they're just terrorists as well?" Mr Uyar also made trips to Syria. He insisted his purpose was to study Arabic and said he was in Afghanistan purely as a traveller.
Abdul Hakim Bukhary
A detainee from Saudi Arabia, Mr Bukhary is one of the few detainees who openly admitted he took up arms against US forces.
Mr Bukhary told the tribunal at Guantanamo Bay that he had fought against the Russians in Afghanistan in the 1980s - a conflict in which the US and Britain had subsidised the Mujahedin forces to which Mr Bukhary belonged.
Mr Bukhary said that he had once again joined in the fight with his Muslim brothers in Afghanistan during the invasion by the US and Britain but has had a change of heart since being in custody. There is no indication in the transcript whether the tribunal believed him.
Mr Khandan from Khowst, in Afghanistan, was accused of having links with the Taliban and of running a safe house for bomb-makers.
Mr Khandan told the tribunal he had worked for the government of Hamid Karzai and opposed the Taliban. A pharmacist who had studied in Pakistan, he said: "When I started medicine school, I told my God that I wanted to heal people."Explosives destroyed people, he said, and were "truly against my ideology".
Mr Khandan said he was tortured by US soldiers in Afghanistan. Among other alleged mistreatments, he said: "I was ordered to stand up 24 hours for 20 days in a row. I had blood coming out of my body and my nose for days because I was tortured so much." Later he said: "Here in Cuba, I have been treated nice. Overall it is fine here."
Abdur Sayed Rahman
Mr Rahman, of Pakistan, identified himself as a poor chicken farmer. But the US alleged he was in the Taliban, as a military judge or deputy foreign minister. It emerged during the hearing that the deputy minister is Abdur Zahid Rahman, a near homonym of the detainee. Police searched Abdur Sayed Rahman's home in Pakistan in the fall of 2001. He was arrested and could not bribe his way to freedom.
Mr Peerzaie was detained in Klianjki, Afghanistan. He was carrying a list of known Taliban members and Taliban radio codes, written on crumpled pieces of scrap paper, according to the US authorities. Mr. Peerzaie denied being a member of the Taliban, saying: "I am George Bush's soldier. I have never helped any Taliban and neither would I now."
Mr Abdalla, a 25-year-old student from Yemen, was captured at a university in Faisalabad, in Pakistan, where he was studying the Koran. He is accused of travelling to Afghanistan to participate in jihad.
Arkin Mahmud, a Chinese Muslim Uighur who traveled to Afghanistan in August 2001, was captured by the Northern Alliance as a suspected Taliban fighter. He was at the Mazar-e-Shariff prison in November 2001 when CIA officer Johnny "Mike" Spann was killed. He said he only went to Afghanistan to look for his brothers.
Habib Noor, a resident of Lalmai, Afghanistan, with family in Saudi Arabia, is accused of owning a compound that attackers fled to after ambushing U.S. Special Forces and Afghan military forces. His brother, whom Noor said was mentally unstable, was suspected of participating in the fighting. He insisted he was unaware of the incident that day, which he spent as a vendor in the Lalmai village bazaar, in Khowst province. "I was just making sacks to sell at the bazaar to make money for my family," Noor said.
Mohammed Sharif, a native of Sherberghan, Afghanistan, was accused of serving as a guard at a Taliban camp. He denied being a guard, and said he had been captured by the Taliban and put to work. He said he feared punishment and retribution against his family if he fled. Sharif denied any knowledge of al-Qaida and asked the tribunal repeatedly to produce the (classified) evidence against him, so that he might respond. "What could you have possibly done, that we might discover some of those facts?" Sharif is asked. "That's my point," he responds. "There are no facts. ... This is ridiculous. I know for a fact there is no proof."
Zahir Shah, of Afghanistan, was accused of being a member of an Islamic militant group and of having automatic weapons and a grenade launcher in his house. He acknowledged having rifles for protection, but insisted he did not fight American troops.
Mesh Arsad Al Rashid
Mesh Arsad Al Rashid said he went to Afghanistan to help Muslims fight against Abdul Rashid Dostum, a former northern warlord who is now the Afghan army chief of staff, and Ahmed Shah Massood, an anti-Taliban Afghan military commander slain Sept. 9, 2001. "I did not know my training would be considered al-Qaida training. I was trying to help Muslims," said Rashid, who gave no country of origin. "I am not from the Taliban, I'm just a person, a helper."
Zain Ul Abedin
Zain Ul Abedin (initially listed as Jumma Jan), a native of Tajikistan born in 1978, was captured in Mazar-e-Shariff, Afghanistan, by coalition forces July 3, 2003. He told the tribunal that U.S. forces had arrested the wrong man: ``That's true the people who found me, that's me they arrested me. But I'm not that name, I don't know what they call me. Jumma Jan. I am not that person.'' He is accused of being a Taliban and Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin leader, and of carrying out a mission in Tajikistan with al Qaida after Sept. 11, 2001. Abedin said he came to Afghanistan in 1991 or 1992 as a refugee and was a taxi driver at the time of his arrest.
| Why is my dad far away in that place called Guantanamo Bay? Young boy's plea to Tony Blair|
By Ben Russell, Political Correspondent
Published: 09 January 2007
Ten-year-old Anas el-Banna will walk to the door of Number 10 Downing Street this week to ask for an answer to the question he has been trying to have answered for four years: Why can't my Dad come home?
His father, Jamil, is one of eight British residents languishing among the almost 400 inmates at the American base at Guantanamo Bay, which opened five years ago to the day this Thursday - the day of Anas's protest.
Mr Banna, was taken to Guantanamo Bay four years ago after being seized in Gambia along with fellow detainee Bisher al-Rawi. He was accused of having a suspicious device in his luggage. It turned out to be a battery charger. No charges have been made.
He suffers from severe diabetes, but his lawyers say he has not been offered medication and has been denied the food he needs. His eyesight is now failing.
A year ago, his son wrote to Tony Blair for the second time to ask why the Government was not helping him return home. The then six-year-old did not even receive a reply. The second letter elicited a cursory note from the Foreign Office. It stated that because Mr Banna is not a British citizen, although his wife and children are, nothing could be done for him.
So on Thursday, carrying yet another letter, Anas and his mother Sabah will return with campaigners and MPs to demand the closure of the camp and action to free the British residents.
Their MP, the the Liberal Democrat frontbencher Sarah Teather, said the Banna children, who are of Jordanian origin but have grown up in North London, were devastated by their father's detention.
The Downing Street protest will come during a week of action to mark the fifth anniversary of Guantanamo Bay. Since its inception, the camp has drawn furious protests from across the globe. Last night, Ian McCartney, the Foreign Office minister, faced anger on the floor of the House of Commons as the MPs for Mr Banna and another detainee, Bisher al-Rawi, lambasted the Government.
Today Ms Teather will present a petition to Parliament demanding his release, while tomorrow, relatives and friends will hold a candlelit vigil outside Downing Street.
Hundreds of protesters dressed in the notorious orange boiler suits that are the uniform at Guantanamo, plan a separate protest outside the US Embassy.
Peace activist Cindy Sheehan is among a group of US activists that has travelled to Cuba to protest outside the camp, on the Cuban side. With them will be former inmate Asif Iqbal, one of the Tipton Three, who was released without charge in March 2004.
Many of the British residents have families who are British citizens, and had leave to remain in the UK, but the Government has refused to take responsibility for them. Yesterday, Ed Davey, chief of staff to the Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell, used the Commons debate to attack ministers for allowing British residents to "languish" in the camp.
He said: "The Government has been both hypocritical and morally bankrupt. They have condemned Guantanamo Bay but have failed to take action for the British residents." He said the US administration had offered to send the men home, but the UK had refused to accept them. He added: " The Prime Minister should stop talking about closing Guantanamo and start doing something about it."
Human rights lawyer Zachary Katznelson, senior advocate at the charity Reprieve, represents the eight men. He said several were held in solitary confinement, some in cells that were lit 24 hours a day. He added: "If they have committed any crime, of course they should be prosecuted and punished. But I have not seen evidence that they have. If it's there, let's see it."
The Foreign Office said it had agreed to make special representations on behalf of Bisher al-Rawi, but insisted that the courts had found that the Government had "no locus" to intervene of behalf of the other men.
On Thursday, Anas el-Banna will try, for the third time, to persuade them to change their minds.
British residents at Guantanamo
* JAMIL EL-BANNA, Jordanian. Held in Guantanamo since March 2003
Arrested, with Bisher al-Rawi, in the Gambia, where they had gone to set up a mobile peanut-processing plant. He was taken by the Americans to Afghanistan and then to Guantanamo Bay. He suffers from severe diabetes but his lawyers say he has not been offered medication.
* BINYAM MOHAMED, Ethiopian. Held in Guantanamo since September 2004
Came to UK in 1996 seeking asylum and was granted indefinite leave to remain. Travelled to Afghanistan in 2001 before fleeing to Pakistan. Charged in relation to an alleged dirty bomb plot at the Guantanamo Bay military tribunal. The tribunal was invalidated last year
* SHAKER AAMER, Saudi Arabian. Held in Guantanamo since February 2002
Was applying for British nationality after settling in Battersea, south London, with his wife and four children, all of whom are British citizens. Seized in Pakistan in 2002. Has been kept in isolation since September 2005 and has been on hunger strike.
* BISHER AL-RAWI, Iraqi. Held in Guantanamo since March 2003
Fled Iraq for Britain with his family 20 years ago. Arrested in the Gambia where he had travelled to help set up a peanut processing plant. Accused of taking a weapon of mass destruction.
* OMAR DEGHAYES, Libyan. Held in Guantanamo since August 2002
Became a British citizen after fleeing to the UK with his family. He appears on a "Chechnyan training video", which his lawyers insist is case of mistaken identity.
* AHMED ERRACHIDI, Moroccan. Held in Guantanamo since May 2002
Worked as a cook in London for 18 years. Seized in Pakistan and accused of attending a terrorist training camp in July 2001. His lawyers say he was working in London at the time. He is in isolation.
* AHMED BELBACHA, Algerian. Held in Guantanamo since March 2002
Lived in Bournemouth, where he worked in the hotel trade. The 37-year-old was refused refugee status in Britain, but granted indefinite leave to remain. Arrested in Pakistan after fleeing Afghanistan in 2001. Alleged to have attended a training camp, which he denies.
* ABDELNOUR SAMEUR, Algerian. Held in Guantanamo since June 2002
The 33-year-old decorator, who settled in north London, was granted refugee status in 2000. Went to Afghanistan in 2001 and was shot in Pakistan trying to reach the Algerian embassy. He was arrested in hospital. Alleged to have attended a training camp, which he denie
|Reid revoked citizenship of Guantanamo detainee|
The home secretary, John Reid, has revoked the British citizenship of a man who alleges he has been raped and tortured at Guantanamo Bay, despite cabinet colleagues condemning the notorious prison, it emerged yesterday
By Vikram Dodd
Guardian - David Hicks won a court battle in Britain to be granted citizenship, his best chance of getting out of US custody after being held for five years without charge or trial. A US military officer acting as his lawyer says Britain has left Mr Hicks to rot and is guilty of hypocrisy.
The news comes as protests are expected today to mark the five-year anniversary of the first Muslim men, including Mr Hicks, arriving at Guantánamo Bay. Rallies will be held around the world at a time when the US is expected to put some detainees before military commissions which have been accused of being rigged and unfair.
Britain has been accused of applying too little pressure on the US to treat the detainees better and to close the prison.
Mr Hicks is an Australian national whose government has refused to press the Bush administration for his release. He fought a long legal battle in the UK courts which ended with senior judges ordering the home secretary to grant Mr Hicks citizenship. His mother was born in the UK and his grandfather fought for the British during the second world war.
On July 7, Mr Reid granted Mr Hicks British citizenship, only to use special powers to take it away just a couple of hours later. Mr Reid's decision came despite criticism from the government, from the prime minister down, of Guantánamo and demands for its closure.
Major Michael Mori, a US soldier serving as a lawyer for Mr Hicks, accused the government of hypocrisy and said his client had been held in isolation for 17 months. "They had a chance to get him out and they abandoned him, a British citizen, to rot in Guantánamo," he said. "It's been a living hell for him. David has been mistreated, ranging from physical to emotional abuse."
In his letter to Mr Hicks, Mr Reid wrote that he "poses a threat to the national security of the United Kingdom and that to deprive you of your British citizenship is conducive to the public good".
Mr Reid appears to have relied on alleged admissions made by Mr Hicks in an interview with MI6 in 2003 at Guantánamo Bay. He is alleged to have admitted meeting terrorists in Afghanistan, but his lawyers say these admissions were made after sustained torture and are unreliable.
Mr Hicks's UK lawyer, Stephen Grosz, said: "They have no evidence of any acts of terrorism, and no evidence of any acts of violence. There are no grounds for taking his citizenship away, it's an abuse of power."
Mr Hicks is alleged to have fought with the Taliban against the US invasion of Afghanistan, and was detained by the Northern Alliance in Kandahar in November 2001. By January 2002 he was in Guantánamo, where he alleges he has been sexually assaulted, repeatedly beaten, threatened, and offered 15 minutes with a prostitute if he spied on other detainees.
Mr Hicks, 31, is a convert to Islam and was born in Adelaide. He is known to have travelled to Japan and Pakistan and to have fought with the Kosovo Liberation Army against the Serbs in 1999.
The lawyers for Adel Hamad took extraordinary measures on behalf of their client, traveling to Afghanistan and Pakistan to verify his story and to take video testimony from people who knew him at the hospital where he worked. "Guantánamo Unclassified" is the result.
|Britain had some prior knowledge of existence of secret CIA prisons, Foreign Secretary says|
The Associated Press
Published: January 19, 2007
LONDON: Britain's government admitted Friday that it knew about a secret CIA prison network before U.S. President George W. Bush acknowledged its existence in September.
Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett made the admission in a written response to a parliamentary question. A Sept. 6 White House speech included a reference to the "existence of a detention program operated by the CIA."
"Prior to this speech, we were aware of the existence of a secret U.S. detention program only in general terms," Beckett said in her response to a lawmaker's question.
A Foreign Office spokesman, speaking on customary condition of anonymity in line with government policy, said the statement was the first confirmation Britain had some prior knowledge of the secret prisons.
In his speech, Bush had said that 14 high-value detainees — including the suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, Khalid Sheik Mohammed — had been kept in CIA custody, in order to be "held secretly, questioned by experts and, when appropriate, prosecuted for terrorist acts."
He said the suspects had been transferred from clandestine centers to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
Britain's Intelligence and Security Committee, a panel of lawmakers which meets in secret to scrutinize spy agency work, had raised concerns in 2005 that the whereabouts of some detainees were unknown, Beckett said.
In a report, the committee quoted evidence from an unnamed agent for MI5, Britain's domestic spy agency, who said the U.S. was "holding some al-Qaida members in detention, other than at Guantanamo, but we do not know the locations or terms of their detention and do not have access to them."
The agent told the committee Britain had received high-value intelligence from those held in clandestine custody, "some of which has led to the frustration of terrorist attacks" in Britain.
In November, a draft European Parliament report claimed 11 European Union governments — including Britain, Poland and Germany — knew about the secret CIA prisons.
February 09, 2007 1:26 PM
Vic Walter and Krista Kjellman Report:
Gitmo_abuse_abc_nr_4 An investigation by the U.S. Southern Command into allegations of prisoner abuse at Guantanamo Bay detention center has concluded that "insufficient evidence exists to substantiate the paralegal's allegations."
But Lieutenant Colonel Colby Vokey, the superior officer to the Marine sergeant who filed the allegations, called the investigation "outrageous." "I am aware that the investigators interviewed only the suspects and some witnesses but did not interview any detainees or potential victims," he told ABC News. "Failure to interview those who may have been subjected to abuse is indicative of an incomplete investigation."
Rep. John Murtha, D- Pa., a key ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, may try to force the closing of the Guantanamo detention facility.
Democrats may seek Guantanamo shutdown
By Tom Curry
National affairs writer
Updated: 11:05 a.m. ET Feb. 9, 2007
WASHINGTON - Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., said Thursday that he may seek to close the Guantanamo facility in Cuba - which is holding more than 300 al Qaida suspects - perhaps by including a requirement in the $100 billion supplemental spending bill for Iraq the Congress will vote on next month.
|Guantanamo inmates denied trial|
By Genèvieve Roberts
Published: 21 February 2007
Prisoners at Guantanamo Bay cannot challenge their detention in US courts, an appeal court has ruled.
The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled 2-1 that civilian courts no longer have the authority to consider whether the military is illegally holding the prisoners, a decision that will strip court access for the hundreds of detainees with cases currently pending. The White House deputy press secretary, Dana Perino, said the decision was "a significant win" for the Bush administration.
Lawyers for the detainees said they would appeal to the US Supreme Court, which last year struck down the Bush administration's plan for trying detainees before military commissions. "We're disappointed," said Shayana Kadidal of the Centre for Constitutional Rights. "The bottom line is that according to two of the federal judges, the President can do whatever he wants without any legal limitations as long as he does it offshore."
There are currently some 395 detainees at the US military base in Cuba.
The Military Commissions Act, which Mr Bush pushed through Congress last year, allows the government to detain foreigners who have been designed as "enemy combatants" to be detained indefinitely and authorises the CIA to use aggressive but undefined interrogation tactics.
|Amnesty urges governments not to cooperate with US military trials|
Last Update: Thursday, March 22, 2007. 7:27pm (AEDT)
The human rights group Amnesty International has called on foreign governments not to cooperate with United States military trials of Guantanamo Bay detainees.
In a report, Amnesty International says other countries should refuse to provide evidence for prosecutions.
The White House insists it needs to try dangerous individuals as part of its efforts to combat terrorism.
Amnesty spokesman Steve Ballinger says the tribunals lack the independence needed to ensure fair trials.
"They're run entirely by the US Department of Defence, a military judge, and a panel of five to 12 serving armed forces officers," he said.
"They'll allow evidence that's been obtained under duress and from illegal, secret detention centres and hearsay evidence.
"Efforts on the part of defence attorneys to challenge evidence that's been coerced out of witnesses, which is notoriously unreliable, can simply be stonewalled on national security grounds."
|Last Update: Thursday, March 22, 2007. 8:38am (AEDT)|
Try Guantanamo detainees before federal courts, Amnesty urges US
Amnesty International says the United States should try Guantanamo Bay detainees before federal courts, without recourse to the death penalty, instead of military commissions.
"Military commissions are a complete travesty of justice - no more, no less," said Kate Allen, Amnesty International's United Kingdom director.
"We want to see the US Government abandon these shabby show trials and transfer Guantanamo cases to proper civilian federal courts on the US mainland."
Her comments come as Amnesty launched a report, Justice Delayed and Justice Denied?, which raises concerns about the fairness of such trials and, in particular, the admissibility of evidence obtained under torture.
It also highlights the limited right of appeal and the risk of so-called 'enemy combatants' being returned to indefinite custody even if they are acquitted.
"The pursuit of unfettered executive power has been a thread that runs through the USA's 'war on terror'," the report concludes.
"Although the executive's initial attempt to establish military commissions without consulting Congress or allowing judicial scrutiny was brought to a halt by the US Supreme Court in June 2006, the replacement scheme that Congress authorised in the charged climate of the 2006 congressional elections in no way serves to guarantee that justice will either be done or be seen to be done.
"It is not too late. The USA should abandon trials by military commission and turn to the federal courts.
"It should abandon any pursuit of the death penalty and reject any evidence that has been obtained under unlawful methods."
The report also calls for foreign governments, including its main ally in the so-called 'war on terror', Britain, to resist US requests for cooperation in military commission tribunals.
That should mean refusing the transfer of suspects and providing evidence. International calls should increase for Guantanamo and other secret US detention centres elsewhere to close, it adds.
According to Amnesty's report, 10 detainees have been charged under the Military Order on the Detention, Treatment and Trial of Certain Non-Citizens in the War Against Terrorism, signed by President George W Bush in late 2001.
Charges were levelled against three of the men in February this year, including Australian David Hicks, who is expected to be the first to be arraigned on Monday next week.
Hicks was detained in Afghanistan in December 2001 during the US-led action against the country's hardline Islamist rulers the Taliban for supporting Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda terror network, which was behind the September 11 attacks.
The 31-year-old Muslim convert is facing a charge of 'providing material support for terrorism'.
Amnesty says it is also concerned about the status of 14 suspects, including 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who were captured outside conflict zones and transferred to Guantanamo from secret detention centres.
At a behind-closed-doors military hearing last week, Mohammed, a Pakistani, claimed responsibility for 31 plots around the world, including 9/11 and the 2002 beheading of US journalist Daniel Pearl.
UK man released from Guantanamo
Mr al-Rawi has lived in the UK for nearly 20 years
A British resident is back in the UK after being held in Guantanamo Bay for almost five years.
Bisher al-Rawi, an Iraqi national, was held at the US detention camp in Cuba on suspicion of links to terrorism while on a trip to Gambia in 2002.
In a statement Mr Rawi, a businessman from south-west London, said: "I am delighted to be back home in England, with my family."
He added: "My nightmare is finally at an end."
I also feel great sorrow for the other nine British residents who remain prisoners in Guantanamo Bay
On Thursday, Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said it had been agreed with the US authorities that he would be returned to the UK, but officials have not disclosed precisely when the detainee was freed.
"As happy as I am to be home though, leaving my best friend Jamil al-Banna behind in Guantanamo Bay makes my freedom bittersweet," Mr Rawi said in a statement released through the law firm Reprieve.
"Jamil was arrested with me in the Gambia on exactly the same unfounded allegations, yet he is still a prisoner.
"I also feel great sorrow for the other nine British residents who remain prisoners in Guantanamo Bay.
"The extreme isolation they are going through is one of the most profoundly difficult things to endure. I know that all too well."
Mr Rawi also paid tribute to all those who campaigned for his release.
British officials have long refused to represent resident foreigners held at Guantanamo, but took up Mr Rawi's case after it was disclosed he had previously co-operated with MI5.
Mr Rawi, an Iraqi citizen with UK residency, was reportedly sent to England in 1985 after his father was arrested by Saddam Hussein's secret police.
Mr Banna is a Jordanian refugee who had been living in north-west London.
Both men were alleged to have been associated with al-Qaeda through their connection with the London-based radical Muslim cleric Abu Qatada.
Mr Rawi and Mr Banna have denied any involvement with Islamic terrorism.
|Four years in Guantánamo - the man who said no to MI5|
Wednesday April 4, 2007
British resident Jamil el-Banna, 44, knew Abu Qatada, a cleric accused of being al-Qaida's spiritual leader in Europe. In 2002 Mr Banna, a father of five from London, was seized by the CIA and secretly flown to Guantánamo Bay, after MI5 wrongly told the Americans that his travelling companion was carrying bomb parts on a business trip to Gambia. On Friday, his companion, Bisher al-Rawi, was released without charge after four years in the US detention camp, after it emerged that he had helped MI5 keep track of Qatada. But Mr Banna's incarceration in Cuba continues.
It has now emerged that only days before Mr Banna's arrest, MI5 visited him at his home and attempted to recruit him as an informer, with the lure of a new identity, relocation and money. The Guardian has obtained this MI5 document in which the intelligence officer details, in his own words, that encounter.
Note For File date 31 October 2002
Subject Meeting with Abu Anas [an Arabic version of Jamil el-Banna's name]
Unannounced visit to Anas at home by ******[blacked out name of MI5 agent] and MPSB D/Sgt ****[name of Metropolitan police special branch detective sergeant]. Anas welcoming and apparently friendly; denies any involvement in extremist activity; concerned about being arrested or turned back when leaving for Gambia, or being excluded once outside the country; asks about progress of application for British nationality and possibility of a return of personal items seized during police raid last year, shows no interest in resettlement package in return for cooperation.
2 On 31 October at 0845hrs, I and *******of MPSB called at Anas's home. This is a reasonably well maintained 1930s semi, probably worth around £300, 000 if the local estate agents window is anything to go by. Parked on the drive at the front was a small, silver-coloured car, displaying a green L plate.
3 Anas opened the door himself, in Arabic, I introduced us as Michael from the British government and Andy from Scotland Yard and asked if we could have a brief chat with him. He immediately invited us in and took us into the living room at the back of the house; his wife, dressed in traditional full length hijab, but with the face uncovered, and three young children were already in there so we waited in the corridor in case either Anas or his wife were sensitive about us being in the same room as her, but they beckoned us in and then said that they were in the middle of checking Anas's blood sugar level - for the last five days he had been suffering health problems and had just been diagnosed by the doctor as having diabetes.
Eventually the wife shooed the children out but hovered around the door to listen to the conversation. The meeting was conducted in Arabic throughout.
4 Anas asked me to repeat who we were and I said that I was from the Security Service - Scotland Yard? he queried; so I explained that Andy was from Scotland Yard and that I was from the mukhaberaat [Arabic for secret police] although it was important for him to understand that we were not like the mukhaberaat in most Arab countries. He immediately agreed with this comment.
5 I then said that, with the arrest of Abu Qatada, we would be able to focus more attention on other members and groups in the extremist community. Anas immediately said that he was not a member of such a group, although he conceded in response to my naming names that he was a friend of Abu Qatada.
He explained that as a youth he had led a dissolute life but had then rediscovered Islam and had been to Afghanistan. It was there that he had met Qatada, whom he considered to be a friend; there was no way that he would allow Qatada's family to go without food or assistance during Qatada's detention.
5 [sic] I told him that in addition to increased focus on UK-based extremists, we were investigating reports of terrorists based abroad who were keen to mount attacks in the UK, possibly using biological or chemical weapons. He agreed that such people were correctly labelled terrorist.
I told him that the use of such techniques would pose a threat to all residents of the UK, as biological weapons would not differentiate between Muslims and Christians, and that as the father of young children he should be concerned by such a possibility. Both Anas and his wife, who was standing by the door, agreed with this. She then left to look after the children.
6 I continued saying that in the event of a successful attack in the UK, it was not possible to predict the government's reaction. It was quite possible that he could find himself swept up in a further round of detentions. He did, however, have a choice - he could continue with his current life or ... at this point he interrupted to ask what I meant by his current life. I told him that I meant his association with members of the extremist community and also his involvement in criminal activity, like his recent arrest and caution for petty shoplifting in an Asda supermarket.
He laughed and shook my hand saying that I knew everything. He went on to say that he was not involved in any extremist activity, and, he did not believe that some people he knew could be considered a threat to the UK and, indeed, there was a fatwa saying that Muslims should respect UK laws. I pointed out that there was also a fatwa which declared that Muslims in the UK could consider themselves to be in a state of jihad and could therefore take ghaneema (spoils of war) from non-Muslims. He again laughed but did not deny this
7 He then went on to say that he was not a well man: in addition to diabetes he had trouble with his back due to beatings at the hands of the Jordanian authorities He was only interested in providing for his children the opportunities that he himself had not had as a child.
He assumed we knew about his business venture in Gambia with Wahaab [al-Rawi, brother of Bisher], which he hoped would prove profitable. He said he would be travelling the next day and asked whether he would be arrested or turned back at the airport. I said that if he had a valid travel document he should be able to travel without a problem. He then asked whether he would be able to get back into the country. I repeated the travel document point.
8 I returned to the choice which he could make: he could either continue as at present, with the risks that entailed, or he could start a new life with a new identity, new nationality, money to set himself up in business and to provide for his family, and an opportunity to move to a Muslim country where his children could be brought up away from the bad influences in western society.
He asked if I wanted him to leave the UK. I told him that that would be for him to decide but that I could help him if that was what he wanted. He said that his children were being brought up as British nationals, going to normal English schools, his life was now in [the] UK.
He then asked about progress on his application for UK nationality as he had completed the required years of residency. I told him that this was a decision for the home secretary; he queried whether the home secretary decided all cases or only his. I told him that the home secretary decided all cases.
I added that I was in a position to make recommendations to the home secretary but that the final decision rested with the home secretary. Anas asked if the home secretary intended to grant his application; I said I did not know but that, if we were asked for a view, we would be obliged to report Anas's previous involvement in Afghanistan and his association with persons currently detained for extremist activities.
9 I again returned to the choice he had: if he chose to help us by providing details of all his activities and contacts, we would assist him to create a new life for himself and his family. I told him that I did not expect him to give me an immediate answer, it was an important decision and he needed to think carefully about it.
10 Anas then asked when he could expect the return of the items seized during a police raid on his house some time ago; he explained that his computer, videos, address books had all been taken and not returned. He was particularly keen to get family photographs back. I told him that I would try to find out what was happening and would let him know.
11 Anas's wife had come back in by this time and asked whether we wanted some tea, we declined saying that we were ready to leave. Abu Anas saw us to the door and waved us off cheerfully
12 Anas appeared cheerful and relaxed throughout, although always ready to learn what we knew about him. He maintained that he was not involved in any extremist activity and was focused on his family's welfare. He did not give any hint of willingness to cooperate with us. His desire for British nationality and the security that this would provide may be worth exploring further with him, should he return to the UK. ****** will make enquiries of SO13 [Scotland Yard's anti-terrorism branch] to establish the status of Anas's possessions. It may be possible to arrange for the return of some of these items, even in Anas's absence, to generate some goodwill.
· Explanations in italics are the Guardian's own words
Last night supporters said Mr Banna should be released immediately.
Brent Mickum, a US based lawyer who has visited him in Guantánamo Bay, said the US had repeatedly questioned his client about Qatada and had offered money and resettlement in the US for him to testify against the cleric, who is currently in the Britain and subject of a control order.
Concern about Mr Banna's health while in captivity in Guantánamo has grown, with a deterioration in his mental wellbeing and his eyesight worsening due to his diabetes.
Mr Banna's wife's local MP, the Liberal Democrat Sarah Teather, has remained in close touch with her and her five children. Ms Teather said: "Jamil el-Banna and Bisher al-Rawi were picked up and handed over to the CIA on the basis of the same faulty intelligence passed by British security services. Both men had been approached by MI5 to work with them.
"These cases reflect very badly on the British government who have used these men and their families as expendable pawns."
Last year, the Guardian reported that documents in the case showed that wrong information had been passed by the UK security services to the US before Mr Banna and his business partners were arrested in Gambia. Those documents and the one published today were obtained by lawyers for the men detained in Guantánamo in a court case brought against the UK government.
A spokesman for the Foreign Office said Britain would not press the US for the release of Mr Banna because he was not a UK national.
They take the same view about eight other British residents still in held in Guantánamo. An exception was made for Mr Rawi after it was alleged he had helped MI5 monitor a suspected Islamist extremist.
Mr Banna was granted refugee status after arriving in Britain in 1994 alleging he had been tortured in Jordan.
From The Times
April 4, 2007
MI5 ‘tried to recruit’ Guantanamo Britons
Two British residents held in Guantanamo Bay for more than four years were detained by the CIA after MI5 failed to recruit them as paid informants, according to documents released in the United States.
The extent of MI5’s involvement with Bisher al-Rawi and Jamil el-Banna — including offers of new lives and new identities financed by the British taxpayer — is detailed in papers released under United States freedom of information laws.
British intelligence sent telegrams to the American authorities, alerting them to the travel plans of Mr al-Rawi, 39, and Mr el-Banna, 44, on the day that they were detained in November 2002. Both men were picked up on arrival in The Gambia, taken to Afghanistan and then put on a secret CIA flight to the Guantanamo Bay internment camp in Cuba.
Mr al-Rawi, 39, was released last weekend and returned to Britain without being arrested or questioned by police. But Mr el-Banna, 43, remains incarcerated at Camp Delta.
In a telegram sent to the CIA on November 8, 2002, which has been seen by The Times, British officials gave details of the flight the men had taken that day from London to Banjul in The Gambia. The communication identified the men as associates of the radical cleric Abu Qatada, a key al-Qaeda figure in Europe.
Three days later, in another telegram, the British officials described Mr al-Rawi as “an Iraqi Islamist extremist” and Mr el-Banna as a “veteran of the Afghan-Soviet war and assessed to be Abu Qatada’s financier”.
A month later another telegram was sent, saying that Britain would not offer the men consular protection because, although they were long-term residents, they were not British citizens. The pair were interrogated in The Gambia by unidentified Americans before being flown to Afghanistan where they were kept in an underground prison. They were then transported to Guantanamo Bay where both have complained of torture, abuse and ill-treatment.
The MI5 telegrams were produced as evidence by a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay and have been acquired by The Washington Post.
But their tone is markedly different from that of another document, headed “Note for file”, written by an intelligence agent on October 31, 2002 — a little more than a week before the men were detained.
The three-page note is a report of a “relaxed” visit by an MI5 agent called Michael and a Special Branch detective named Andy to Mr el-Banna’s home during which efforts were made to persuade him to become an informant.
The agent says he told Mr el-Banna that he was in danger of being detained in Britain with other extremists.
He wrote: “He did however have a choice. He could continue with his current life or — at this point he interrupted to ask what I meant by his current life. I told him that I meant his association with members of the extremist community and also his involvement in criminal activity . . .
“I returned to the choice he could make; he could either continue as at present with the risks that entailed or he could start a new life with a new identity, new nationality, money to set himself up in business and to provide for his family, and an opportunity to move to a Muslim country where his children could be brought up away from the bad influences of Western society.
“He asked if I wanted him to leave the UK. I told him that would be for him to decide but that I could help him if that was what he wanted . . .
“I again returned to the choice he had; if he chose to help us by providing details of all his activities and contacts, we would assist him to create a new life for him and his family.”
Lawyers for Mr el-Banna say he has repeatedly refused inducements to provide “false testimony” against Abu Qatada.
Mr al-Rawi, who denies any involvement in extremism, has testified to a US military tribunal that he faced similar pressures to become an informant and that he had passed messages from MI5 to Abu Qatada when the cleric, now in jail under a control order, was in hiding. He was freed after negotiations between Britain and the US. It is not clear what steps are being taken by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office to achieve the release of Mr el-Banna.
source: Times OnLine
From The Times
April 10, 2007
MI5 blunder led to ghost flight and jail for ‘extremists’
An inquiry into MI5’s alleged complicity in the detention without trial at Guantanamo Bay of two British residents is believed to have concluded that the intelligence service made serious mistakes, The Times has learnt.
The parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) has been investigating the detention of Bisher al-Rawi and Jamil el-Banna by the CIA and their transfer by “ghost flight” to the American internment camp in Cuba.
The ISC’s report was due on the Prime Minister’s desk later this month but has been delayed after the release last weekend of Mr al-Rawi.
Crucial to the inquiry are documents that show that MI5 had approached both men to become informants because of their acquaintance with a radical Islamist cleric.
The papers, released under American freedom of information legislation, appear to show that Mr el-Banna refused offers of money and a new identity while Mr al-Rawi tried to pull out of an unpaid arrangement with MI5 agents. Later British agents sent telegrams to the CIA, alerting it to the men’s arrival in The Gambia from London on a business trip.
The telegrams described the men as Islamists and extremists who were close to Abu Qatada, a key figure in the al-Qaeda movement in Europe, now in prison in Britain.
Both men were arrested in The Gambia and transferred first to Bagram airbase, Afghanistan and then to Guantanamo Bay. They were flown on unmarked CIA flights and are among the few Britons to have been subjected to extraordinary rendition — the transfer of detainees across borders without recourse to any legal process. Sources have told The Times that the preliminary judgment of the ISC is that MI5 made “operational” mistakes but that it did not know that the two men would be subject to rendition and internment at Guantanamo Bay.
Mr al-Rawi, 39, spoke of the “nightmare” he had endured at the US camp and appealed to the Government to work for the release of Mr el-Banna, 43.
Both men admit knowing Abu Qatada but deny involvement in extremist activity. Neither has been charged with any terror offence in Britain.
Reprieve, the legal campaign group, says that another eight men with the right to live in Britain are among the estimated 430 still being held at the camp.
But the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which negotiated the return of Mr al-Rawi, said it had not asked the US to release any of the other detainees with British links.
A spokesman said: “They are all foreign nationals and therefore we have no locus to provide diplomatic or consular assistance to them.
“The facts of Mr al-Rawi’s case are different and the Foreign Secretary took a decision to ask the Americans to release him back to the UK.”
Clive Stafford Smith, of Reprieve, said, however, that he believed Mr al-Rawi’s release was a breakthrough.
“If Bisher can be freed so too can Jamil el-Banna. Their cases are identical,” he said.
“The British Government holds the key — if they would just say the word he would be home. The Americans are desperate to release people and close Guantanamo down.
“The problem is the Home Office. They spend their whole time trying to deport people, they don’t want them coming into the UK.”
Jamil el-Banna, a father of five, described his arrest to a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay. This is an extract from the transcript:
Jamil el-Banna: They took me, covered me, put me in a vehicle and sent me somewhere — I don’t know where. It was at night. Then from there to the airport right away.
Tribunal: An airport in Gambia?
El-Banna: We were in a room with about eight men. All with covered-up faces.
Tribunal: Were you by yourself?
El-Banna: Yes. They cut off my clothes. They were pulling on my hands and my legs. They put me in an airplane and they made me wear the handcuffs that go around your body so I would not do anything on the airplane . . .
Tribunal: Is this the time you said you were kidnapped?
El-Banna: This is all kidnapping. Yes. They took me underground in the dark. I did not see light for two weeks.
Tribunal: Is that after you travelled to Afghanistan or Pakistan?
El-Banna: After I got off the airplane.
Tribunal: In where?
El-Banna: Bagram, Afghanistan . . . I did not know what I did wrong or what I did.
Source: US military
source; Times Online
|US now detaining 18,000 prisoners in Iraq|
Melissa C. Bancroft at 4:33 PM ET
[JURIST] The United States currently holds some 18,000 detainees [JURIST news archive] in two US-run Iraqi detention facilities, Camp Bucca and Camp Cropper [Wikipedia backgrounders], the Washington Post reported Sunday, citing US military sources. In the past month, the US has increased security in Baghdad, leading to an additional 1,000 arrests. The detainees are considered "enemy combatants", similar to the detainees at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive], and are typically held for about a year. Some 8,000 of the current detainees have nonetheless been jailed for longer than a year and around 1,300 have been detained for two years. In 2006, the US military held fewer than 10,000 Iraqis.
A US unit commander and an army lawyer make the initial decision of whether a Iraqi civilian should be detained or released. The army creates a file for each detainee which contains any evidence that supports the initial belief the person is a threat. Every detainee's case is reviewed by a Magistrate Cell which hands down a decision to the detainee. After a detainee is held for 18 months, the Joint Detention Review Committee, comprised of Iraqis and Americans, determine whether the detention should continue. The Washington Post has more.
|Guantanamo lawyer faces jail term|
Hundreds of men are held without charge at Guantanamo Bay
A US Navy lawyer faces six months in prison and dismissal from service for sending a human rights lawyer the names of 550 Guantanamo Bay detainees.
Lt Cdr Matthew Diaz, 41, posted a list of the names in an unmarked Valentine's Day card during the final days of his service at Guantanamo Bay in 2005.
He apologised during his sentencing for having acted "irrationally".
The US military had originally refused to release the names of the men it was holding at Guantanamo Bay.
The names were made public in 2006 after the Associated Press news agency won a court case against the military.
At a court martial, Lt Cdr Diaz was convicted of communicating secrets that could be used to harm the US and of three other charges of passing on information to an unauthorised person.
The jury recommended that Lt Cdr Diaz receive full pay and benefits during his time in jail.
The sentence and the dismissal order are reportedly subject to further approval and to review by an appeals court.
Lt Cdr Diaz apologised for his actions during his sentencing.
"I should have done better. It was extremely irrational for me to do what I did," he said.
However, in an earlier interview with US paper, The Dallas Morning News daily, he appeared to defend his actions.
"I had observed the stonewalling, the obstacles we continued to place in the way of the attorneys," the paper quoted Lt Cdr Diaz as saying.
"I knew my time was limited... I had to do something."
The officer said he had been moved to act because prisoners' rights under the Geneva Convention had been violated.
"No matter how the conflict was identified, we were to treat them in accordance with Geneva, and it just wasn't being done."
The US government says the men held at its military prison in Guantanamo Bay pose a grave threat to the country and have not been tortured.
The Dallas Morning News quotes Lt Cdr Diaz questioning both these assertions.
The sentencing of Lt Cdr Diaz has been criticised by the Centre for Constitutional Rights, the New York-based human rights body whose lawyer received the Valentine's Day card and the list of suspects.
"We believe that Lt Cmdr Diaz's actions were grounded in a strong sense of morality and commitment to the rule of law," a statement on the centre's website said.
Sun 27 May 2007
Guantanamo detainee claims MI5 misinformation led to arrest and torture
ANDREW O SELSKY
JAMIL el-Banna has been locked up by the United States for nearly five years without being charged - arrested in Africa, allegedly tortured at a CIA "black site" in Afghanistan, then held at Guantanamo Bay - all because of faulty British intelligence, his lawyers claimed yesterday.
Now, the UK government has said that el-Banna had been cleared by the US for transfer to his native Jordan, where he says he was tortured before becoming a political refugee in Britain in 1997. His lawyers have decried the move, saying that sending him back amounted to the US outsourcing torture.
"We are going to block his rendition to Jordan," lawyer Clive Stafford Smith said. "To be sure, he would be out of [Guantanamo], but it would be from the frying pan into the fire."
Navy Cmdr Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman, refused to discuss el-Banna, who is under indictment in Spain for allegedly joining a terrorist group and who admits associating with Islamic extremists but denies having anything to do with al-Qaeda or any other terror activity.
Tony Blair recently told Parliament that he opposes el-Banna's return to Britain, where the detainee's wife and five British-citizen children live and where - according to his supporters - official mishandling of intelligence information led to his arrest in the first place.
According to intelligence documents, el-Banna's troubles started after a British MI5 intelligence officer visited his home near London in October 2002 and tried to get him to become a paid informant.
He had associations with radical Muslims, including Abu Qatada, a Muslim cleric described by a Spanish judge as Osama bin Laden's "spiritual ambassador in Europe".
Also, in Jordan, el-Banna belonged to a radical Palestinian support group linked to Iran and Syria - which is what got him in trouble with Jordanian authorities.
The MI5 officer wrote that el-Banna "did not give any hint of willingness to cooperate with us".
Unbeknown to el-Banna, his friend Bisher al-Rawi, an Iraqi living in Britain, was helping MI5 keep tabs on London's Muslim community.
At the time, Abu Qatada was in hiding to avoid arrest under Britain's anti-terrorism laws, and al-Rawi relayed messages between MI5 and the cleric [Abu Qatada].
Al-Rawi also recruited el-Banna on the trip that ended with their arrest in Africa.
They were detained at Gatwick Airport. According to an MI5 memo written on November 1 2002, "some form of homemade electronic device" found in al-Rawi's bag could have been used in a car bomb.
British authorities released the men three days later and let them go to Africa after deciding the device was simply "a commercially available battery charger that had been modified by al-Rawi in order to make it more powerful".
They were eventually handed over to CIA custody, where according to a lawsuit filed on April 26, they were tortured.
The men were taken to Afghanistan and several months later the two were moved to Guantanamo.
The Home Office, which oversees MI5, refused to comment.
|Stark choice for Guantánamo detainee: stay in jail or face torture in home country|
· London man cleared for release after four years
· Lawyers demand that he be able to join family in UK
Monday May 28, 2007
The government was under pressure last night to allow a London man held in Guantánamo Bay for four years to return to Britain after the US cleared him for release from the notorious prison.
Jamil el-Banna was detained by the US in 2002 after Britain sent the CIA false information about him. He had also failed to accept an MI5 offer to turn informant.
If refused entry to Britain, Mr Banna could be returned to face torture in his native Jordan, from where he fled to Britain in 1994 after alleging ill treatment.
Speaking through his lawyer from Guantánamo, Mr Banna described how he longed to be reunited with his wife and five children, and denied involvement in terrorism. "They should admit the truth - that they have been holding an innocent man for four-and-a-half years. I just want to be home with my family," he said.
Mr Banna's lawyers will launch an emergency court battle within days to seek a guarantee from the government that he will be allowed to return to the UK and be reunited with his family. Today they will mark his 45th birthday but friends and lawyers fear he faces a "nightmare choice" between languishing in Guantánamo or facing torture in Jordan.
The Blair government, despite its criticism of Guantánamo, has refused to help Mr Banna during his incarceration. At least two other former British resident inmates who were cleared for release have been barred from returning to the UK.
Mr Banna's MP, Liberal Democrat Sarah Teather, said ministers should let him return home to north-west London: "It would be a moral outrage if this government now stood idly by and let him be sent to a country where they know his safety would be at risk."
Mr Banna was granted refugee status by Britain after it was accepted he had been tortured in Jordan.
In 2002 he was seized by the CIA after MI5 wrongly told the Americans that his travelling companion was carrying bomb parts on a business trip to Gambia.
He was taken to Bagram airbase in Afghanistan and then to Guantánamo. He alleges ill treatment in both places and has never been charged with any offence.
This month Mr Banna was seen in Guantánamo by his lawyer, Zachary Katznelson from the group Reprieve. According to Mr Katznelson's transcript of the meeting, seen by the Guardian, Mr Banna said: "The British government has let me stay here for four and a half years. What crime did I commit? Together with the Americans, they have kept me from my children. They have deprived me of the chance to see them grow up, to hold them, to kiss them, to laugh with them, to play with them. There is no way to turn back time, to give me back those moments."
During the visit, Mr Banna was allowed to watch a home video of his children, including his first sighting of his four-year-old daughter Maryam. He said: "If there is any justice and fairness in Britain, the British government should tell the Americans immediately: 'You made a mistake; it is time to get him [Jamil] out of there.' Just tell me you are sorry, that you made a mistake. If they apologised, I would forgive them."
Mr Banna came to the attention of MI5 because he knew Abu Qatada, the cleric accused of being al-Qaida's spiritual leader in Europe. Days before the trip to Gambia an MI5 agent went to Mr Banna's home in an attempt to recruit him. He is also wanted in Spain, which has expressed an interest in extraditing him.
His friend, Bisher al-Rawi, was also seized by the US on the trip to Gambia and imprisoned in Guantánamo for four years. He was released in March after it emerged he had helped MI5 monitor Abu Qatada.
Speaking from Guantánamo, while shackled to the floor, Mr Banna said: "I have always told the truth. I have no information about terrorism. I've said since the very first day: put me on trial anywhere at any time. I will gladly stand up and tell my story. And I know that a fair court would set me free. But there is no chance of that here in Guantánamo. There is no justice here." Mr Banna said his diabetes is not being treated and his sight is deteriorating.
Mr Katznelson said: "Now he's been cleared for release, he faces the start of a new nightmare. Each time I see him he's more depressed. He is increasingly despondent about being sent to Jordan."
During the visit Mr Banna also said that letters from his children were taking up to 16 months to reach him.
Ms Teather, who has fought for Mr Banna's release, said: "Hearing that Jamil has been cleared for release should be a moment of rejoicing for his family. But instead it seems they are about to be torn apart. Jamil was arrested because of false information passed by British security services, and he has been left in Guantánamo to rot because the British government refuses to act. Now he has finally been cleared for release, the only thing that stands between this father and his family is permission from the government for him to come home."
Solicitor Irène Nembhard said the home secretary would be taken to court to give a guarantee that he would be allowed entry into Britain: "Since the British government had a role in his detention, to refuse him re-entry would be repugnant.
"It would be unlawful as his children are British nationals with a right to family life under article eight [of the European Convention on Human Rights]."
The government has maintained a position that it has no obligation to help British residents held by the US in Guantánamo.
A spokesman for the Pentagon refused to discuss the case and no date has been set for Mr Banna's release.
|They tortured us, and that's no lie|
May 30 2007
By Tony Deeley, Birmingham Mail
TWO Midland men who spent two years at Camp Delta in Guantanamo Bay are to be featured in a new TV programme.
Ruhal Ahmed and Shafiq Rasul were branded the "Tipton Taliban" after being captured by US forces and held at the notorious prison camp in Cuba.
Their story will feature in Lie Lab, a new series which takes to the airwaves on Saturday.
Mr Ahmed, of Bath Road, Tipton, and Mr Rasul, of Victoria Road, were captured in Afghanistan at the end of 2001 along with Asif Iqbal, of Wellington Road.
All three were accused of taking part in terrorist activities and were not released from Guantanamo Bay until March 2004.
Along with campaigning family members, they claimed they were completely innocent and after their release used a £60,000 deal with a national newspaper to describe their experiences in captivity.
The men maintained they originally travelled to Pakistan to check out marriage arrangements made by Mr Iqbal's parents and that Mr Rasul was hoping to go on a computer course.
They crossed the border into Afghanistan and used savings to buy food and medical supplies for villagers, but were driven into danger and had to give themselves up.
They alleged that while detained at Guantanamo Bay, they were beaten and tortured by US and British intelligence officers.
Lie Lab starts its run on Channel 4 at 7 pm on Saturday. Pioneering lie-detecting technology developed by scientists at Sheffield University is tested on individuals accused of serious offences who claim they are innocent.
|Lie Lab On Channel 4|
For the first time on British television, Channel 4 employs new lie-detecting technology on individuals accused of serious offences who claim they are innocent. In theory there is no escape: if they are lying, the scanner will show it.
Two British Asians labelled as terrorists take the test. Also under scrutiny is a woman convicted of poisoning a child, as well as the author of a best-selling book alleging physical and sexual abuse that members of her family have described as complete fiction.
Scientists at Sheffield University have pioneered the use of functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), which in experimental conditions has shown remarkable accuracy in detecting lies. Each film in Lie Lab explores a single case with individuals answering key questions with the fMRI scanner, to be then shown the results afterwards.
While some believe the fMRI scanner is a threat to civil liberties, arguing that no technology is fool-proof, others say the technology could be invaluable in ruling out suspects, and supporting the judicial process.
Lie Lab explores these questions and looks at other forms of deception detection being pioneered in Britain and the US. The show will air on Channel 4 this June.
|CIA ran secret prisons for detainees in Europe, says inquiry|
Friday June 8, 2007
The CIA operated secret prisons in Europe where terrorism suspects could be interrogated and were allegedly tortured, an official inquiry will conclude today.
Despite denials by their governments, senior Polish and Romanian security officials have confirmed to the Council of Europe that their countries were used to hold some of America's most important prisoners captured after 9/11 in secret.
None of the prisoners had access to the Red Cross and many were subject to what George Bush has called the CIA's "enhanced" interrogation, which critics have condemned as torture. Although suspicions about the secret CIA prisons have existed for more than a year, the council's report, seen by the Guardian, appears to offer the first concrete evidence. It also details the prisons' operations and the identities of some of the prisoners.
The council has also established that within weeks of the 9/11 attacks, Nato signed an agreement with the US that allowed civilian jets used by the CIA during its so-called extraordinary rendition programme to move across member states' airspace. Its report states: "We have sufficient grounds to declare that the highest state authorities were aware of the CIA's illegal activities on their territories." The council's investigators believe that agreement may have been illegal.
The full extent of British logistic support for the extraordinary rendition programme was first disclosed by the Guardian, which reported in September 2005 that aircraft operated by the CIA had flown in and out of UK civilian and military airports hundreds of times.
The 19-month inquiry by the council, which promotes human rights across Europe, was headed by Dick Marty, a Swiss senator and former state prosecutor. He said: "What was previously just a set of allegations is now proven: large numbers of people have been abducted from various locations across the world and transferred to countries where they have been persecuted and where it is known that torture is common practice."
His report says there is "now enough evidence to state that secret detention facilities run by the CIA [existed] in Europe from 2003 to 2005, in particular in Poland and Romania". Mr Marty has told Channel 4's Dispatches, in a report to be broadcast on Monday, that the jails were run "directly and exclusively" by the CIA. This was only possible because of "collaboration at various institutional levels of America's many partner countries".
He succeeded in confirming details of the CIA's prisons by using his own "intelligence methods", which included tracking agents on both sides of the Atlantic, and persuading them to talk. Officials in Poland and Romania have repeatedly denied the existence of CIA facilities or the presence of detainees held by US authorities.
But Mr Marty concluded: "All the members and partners of Nato signed up to the same permissive - not to say illegal - terms that allowed CIA operations to permeate throughout the European continent and beyond ..." There was no immediate comment from Nato.
· Stephen Grey presents Dispatches - Kidnapped to Order on Monday June 11 at 8pm on Channel 4.
| REPORT: One UK Bomber Was Recent GITMO Release|
Saturday, July 09, 2005
7 July 2005; 12:54 ET: Preliminary reports from a source inside the Pentagon indicate that one of the operatives involved in this morning's bombings in London was recently released from the prison at Guantanamo.
UPDATED 10:35 PM ET: A clarification was made by the source providing this information, noting that "one of the bombers who is believed to be involved in this attack was recently released from the prison at Guantanamo, Cuba." The source did not elaborate about how the suspect was reportedly identified so early, although suggested he was onboard bus 30 that exploded outside of the British Medical Association at 9:47 local time. We are continuing our investigation.
| Guantanamo inmate told: You can't return to UK, you've been away too long|
By Ben Russell, Political Correspondent
Published: 15 June 2007
Gordon Brown is being urged to intervene to stop the Home Office banning a British resident from returning home after more than four years at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.
Campaigners expressed fury after ministers said Jamil el-Banna's permission to stay in Britain had lapsed during the four-and-a-half years he has been held without charge at the US detention camp.
They warned that Mr Banna, a refugee whose wife and five children live in north London, could face detention or torture if he is sent back to his native Jordan when he is released.
Mr Banna's son, Anas, 10, will deliver a letter to Gordon Brown today, asking the prime minister-in-waiting to let his father return home for Father's Day on Sunday. Anas asked Mr Brown: "I hope you won't say that my dad was away from the country for more than two years as they say. My dad was only out of the country because he was locked up over there. They stopped him from coming back to us. Now my Dad can leave and we hope he comes back to us. I hope he comes back to us before 17 June, before Father's Day. Every year this day is very sad for us. I hope that this year, this day will be the best day of my life."
Mr Banna was arrested in The Gambia in 2002 with another former Guantanamo detainee, Bisher al-Rawi, who has been freed. The two men had travelled to west Africa to set up a peanut processing plant but were arrested and taken to Afghanistan and Guantanamo after an MI5 tip-off.
The row came as Harriet Harman, the Justice minister and a Brown ally, called for Britain to press for a UN Security Council resolution over Guantanamo.
She told a Labour deputy leadership hustings meeting: "There is no other country in the world that is doing this, other than the US. If it was another country, we would be protesting and we would have a Security Council resolution condemning Guantanamo."
US military authorities have cleared Mr Banna for release from Guantanamo Bay but John Reid, the Home Secretary, has refused to confirm that he will be allowed to return to Britain when he is freed. Instead, a parliamentary written reply from Liam Byrne, the Immigration minister, cast doubt on Mr Banna's right to return to Britain. It said: "Mr Banna was recognised as a refugee by the UK in 1997 and was granted indefinite leave to remain in 2000. That leave has now lapsed."
On Tuesday, lawyers for the businessman, who fled Jordan for Britain in 1994 alleging ill treatment, applied for a judicial review, arguing that the Home Office cannot deny Mr Banna's right to return to Britain as a refugee. His MP, the Liberal Democrat frontbencher Sarah Teather, said it would be "idiotic" to refuse Mr Banna entry to Britain because his leave to stay had lapsed. She said: "He has been away from the country for four-and-a-half years because he has been locked up in Guantanmo Bay. His family are torn between being excited that he might be released and being afraid that he might be sent to Jordan. All they want is for him to come home."
Mr Banna's solicitor, Irene Nembhard, said she had asked the Home Office to confirm that he would be able to return to the UK, but had been told that Mr Reid had yet to decide on the case. She said: "As a refugee recognised by the UK, his status does not lapse. He has a legal entitlement to return to the UK."
A son's plea for his father's return
Extract from letter by Anas el-Banna to Gordon Brown
"When I heard that you care about families and children I decided to write you this letter.
"I was very happy when I saw you on the news showing interest in Madeleine McCann who was kidnapped. I also hope that Madeleine is reunited with her parents safely because I know what it is like to have someone from your family kidnapped. I know how sad and hard it can be for a family because it is sad and hard for my family.
"My Dad wants to come back to us and we want him to come back to our house after all these years. I hope you won't say that my Dad isn't British so you can't help him. My Dad was treated unfairly and kidnapped and even if he isn't British, we, his five children, are. I hope you won't say that my dad was away from the country for more than two years. My Dad was only out of the country because he was locked up over there. They stopped him from coming back to us. Now my Dad can leave and we hope he comes back to us. I hope he comes back to us before 17 June. Every year this day is very sad for us. I hope that this year this day will be the best day of my life".
|Leading article: A shocking betrayal that shames our government|
Published: 15 June 2007
Sometimes, confronted with the absurdities of officialdom, you do not know whether to laugh or to cry. The release of Jamil el-Banna, a British resident held for the past four years at Guantanamo, is apparently being complicated because the British authorities refuse to allow him back. And on what grounds are they refusing? He is deemed to have forfeited his "indefinite leave to remain" by staying abroad for more than two years.
Now we know that the US administration had Camp Delta rebuilt and loses no opportunity to praise conditions there. We also know that it complies with some aspects - it decides which -of the Geneva Conventions. But Guantanamo is not exactly Club Med. It is a prison camp in an unpleasant climate zone, which exists - despite the best efforts of human rights campaigners and the US Supreme Court - in a judicial limbo.
For the British to argue that this period of involuntary detention annuls his asylum status is ridiculous. The suspicion must be that something more sinister than bureaucratic folly lies behind it. Was it that they were casting around for a pretext to keep Mr Banna out of Britain and this was the best they could come up with? And is it then their intention that he should be forced to return to Jordan, the country he fled more than 10 years ago? If so, the decision is not merely ridiculous, but cynical, immoral and unjust.
If Mr Banna was granted asylum in Britain - which he was - then this was because it was recognised that he faced a well-founded fear of persecution. In 2000 he was granted indefinite leave to remain. That should mean what it says, unless the authorities can prove that he deliberately flouted any conditions this entailed and knew what the consequences would be.
A year ago, Mr Banna was one of three British residents who tried, and failed, to compel the then foreign secretary, Jack Straw, to assist them, as he had assisted the British citizens whose release was - eventually - obtained. The court rejected their plea, on the grounds that residents are not guaranteed the same rights as citizens.
In the case of Mr Banna, however, and several of the other known British residents still held at Guantanamo, things cannot be so clear-cut. Mr Banna's case for being treated as a British national is particularly strong. He was legally resident, and his citizenship application was in train. His wife and five young children are British.
But it is not only his asylum status that makes Jamil el-Banna's case disquieting. He was not captured on a battlefield, in Afghanistan or anywhere else. He and an associate, Bisher al-Rawi, were detained when they arrived in Gambia on business. They were handed over to the US authorities, who "rendered" them to the notorious Bagram prison in Afghanistan, from where they were dispatched to Guantanamo.
It turned out that their arrest had been co-ordinated by British and US intelligence. It also turned out, from statements given to their lawyers, that both had been in contact with MI5. Once in US hands, they were in a double bind. They suffered all the liabilities from their contacts with Islamic groups but, as non-citizens, they enjoyed no protection. In the end, the British government interceded on behalf of Mr Rawi, who was released earlier this year. There can be no doubt it owes an equal obligation to Mr Banna. If there is evidence that his past activities have broken laws, he should be charged and tried in the normal way.
It is betrayal to deny someone refuge that has already been granted. It also traduces the principle that a person is innocent until guilt is proved. Worse still, it leaves the impression that this government is content to let the CIA do its dirty work. Let Jamil el-Banna return home.
From The Sunday Times
December 18, 2005
MI5 ‘colluded with CIA’ over suspect sent to torture jails
LAWYERS for a former pupil at a top British independent school have accused the government of colluding with the CIA to send him to a series of prisons where he was abused.
The claims relating to Bisher al-Rawi, a former student at Millfield now being held at Guantanamo Bay, will raise fresh questions about British involvement in the controversial American practice of “extraordinary rendition”.
The procedure, in which prisoners are secretly flown by the CIA to countries where they may face torture during interrogation, has sparked a string of investigations across Europe.
The government has faced mounting criticism from human rights groups and opposition politicians since it emerged that CIA-operated planes had landed at British airports on dozens of occasions.
Al-Rawi, 37, an Iraqi national who has lived in Britain since 1985, and his business partner Jamil al-Banna, a Jordanian who was granted refugee status in Britain in 2000, were detained three years ago in Gambia. They were later flown by the CIA to Afghanistan and then to Cuba in March 2003.
The men are accused of being associated with Al-Qaeda and Abu Qatada, a radical Muslim cleric who has been described as Osama Bin Laden’s European ambassador. Qatada is in a British jail pending deportation to his native Jordan.
In Cuba one interrogator is alleged to have told al-Banna: “Why are you angry at America? It is your government, Britain, the MI5, who called the CIA and told them you and Bisher were in Gambia and to come and get you. Britain gave everything to us. Britain sold you out to the CIA.”
The comments, recounted by al-Banna, 43, to Clive Stafford Smith, his British lawyer, are outlined in transcripts of interviews recently declassified by the Pentagon.
Al-Rawi has claimed he was approached by MI5 in London to act as an unpaid intermediary with Qatada. When the preacher supposedly went into hiding at the end of 2001, al-Rawi admits finding Qatada a new flat. However, he also claims he told his MI5 handlers where the preacher was staying.
Last year al-Rawi asked for three MI5 agents to be called as witnesses before a military tribunal at Guantanamo.
The British authorities refused to co-operate, but it is understood the same agents may have interviewed al-Rawi at the American prison on “a handful of occasions”.
Prior to travelling to Gambia in November 2002 to set up a peanut-oil processing factory, al-Rawi and al-Banna were arrested at Gatwick airport and questioned by police about a suspect electronic device. They were released when it turned out to be a battery charger.
The pair flew out to Gambia about a week later, but were stopped again by local intelligence officers at Banjul airport and handed over to the Americans. “They said they were from the (US) embassy,” al-Banna told a military tribunal last year. “They were wearing black, they even covered their heads black.”
His account matches descriptions of the CIA’s rendition unit. Flight logs reportedly show that a CIA-operated Gulfstream jet, registration N379P, was in Banjul on the day of the men’s arrest. The same plane has landed at five different British airports.
Al-Banna and al-Rawi were held for about a month in Gambia before being flown to the notorious “dark prison” in Kabul and the US military airbase at Bagram.
There, al-Banna claims he was offered $10m (£5.6m) and a US passport to testify against Qatada. When he refused, an interrogator told him: “I am going to London . . . I am going to f*** your wife. Your wife is going to be my bitch. Maybe you’ll never see your children again.”
Al-Banna was so angry that he spat at his interrogator, but was allegedly slapped around the face until he bled.
Al-Rawi claims that an American soldier punched him in the eye when he was being transferred from Kabul to Bagram. He alleges that interrogators threatened to send him to Jordan where “electric cables” would be used to extract evidence.
Both men have been repeatedly questioned at Guantanamo by American intelligence officers. Al-Banna claims he was kept in interrogation rooms for up to 14 hours a day with the air-conditioning on full so that it was freezing cold.
The Home Office, which covers MI5, refused to comment. The US State Department said: “When we act, we do so lawfully.”
|CIA discounted British concerns, say MPs|
· Americans ignored caveats on intelligence
· 'Serious implications' after British residents seized
Thursday July 26, 2007
MI5 contributed to the seizure of two British residents by the CIA, which secretly flew them to Guantánamo Bay in a move with "serious implications for the intelligence relationship" between Britain and the US, a cross-party committee of senior MPs said in a damning report released yesterday.
The security service passed information to the Americans on Bisher al-Rawi, an Iraqi, and Jamil el-Banna, from Jordan, as they flew to the Gambia to set up a business there in 2002. Both had lived in Britain for many years.
Mr Rawi was released from Guantánamo in March after evidence emerged in a British court that he helped MI5 monitor Abu Qatada, the radical cleric. Mr Banna is still held in the US base on Cuba. Though the US has said he can leave, the British government said his UK residence status had expired because of his absence.
In its report yesterday, the parliamentary intelligence and security committee said MI5 was "indirectly and inadvertently" involved in the rendition of the two men by passing on the information, which included claims about their Islamist sympathies.
The committee said it was satisfied MI5 did not intend the men to be arrested and had used "caveats" specifically forbidding the CIA to seize the men as a result of the information it handed over. The case showed a "lack of regard on the part of the US for UK concerns - despite strong protests - and that has serious implications for the intelligence relationship," the MPs said.
In unprecedented criticism of Britain's security and intelligence agencies, the committee said both MI6 and MI5 "were slow to appreciate [the] change in US rendition policy" - a reference to the practice of seizing terrorist suspects and flying them to secret destinations where they risked being tortured.
The report was sent to the prime minister on June 28 but released by Downing Street only yesterday. The committee recognised there was a "great deal of 'tough talk' being used by the US". But it added that MI6 and MI5 should have detected sooner what the CIA was up to.
The brushing aside of British concerns had been "surprising and concerning" in "this usually close relationship". The MPs said: "Secret detention, without legal or other representation, is of itself mistreatment. Therefore, where there is a real possibility of 'rendition to detention' to a secret facility, even it would be for a limited time, we consider that approval must never be given."
The full extent of British logistic support for America's "extraordinary rendition" programme was first disclosed by the Guardian, which reported in September 2005 that aircraft operated by the CIA had flown in and out of UK civilian and military airports hundreds of times. The Council of Europe and European parliament have since reported that the CIA operated secret prisons in Europe where terrorism suspects could be interrogated and were allegedly tortured.
In their report, the MPs said there was no evidence any British agency had been "directly involved" in America's rendition programme. Paul Murphy, the former Labour cabinet minister who chairs the committee, castigated the government over its failure to keep proper records.
"Our inquiry has not been helped by the fact that government departments have had such difficulty in establishing the facts from their own records in relation to requests to conduct renditions through UK airspace," he said.
Clive Stafford Smith, legal director of Reprieve, which represents prisoners open to abuse, said last night: "The report makes clear some awful facts about the arrest and rendition of Jamil el-Banna and Bisher al-Rawi. The British government sent the Americans incorrect information that led directly to the arrest of these men ... Jamil remains in Guantánamo Bay while the UK dithers about whether to allow him home to his wife and five British children. The UK started this chain of suffering. It must end it and bring Jamil back."
Andrew Tyrie, the Conservative who chairs the all-party group on rendition, said: "In response to a question from me, the prime minister refused to condemn extraordinary rendition."
British officials last night stressed that the report concluded that intelligence-sharing relationships, particularly with the US, were crucial to countering the threat posed to the UK by global terrorism.
Bisher al-Rawi’s Relationship with the Security Service
142. The Committee has also investigated claims made by Bisher al-Rawi regarding
his relationship with the Security Service. He claimed in his CSRT that he worked –
unpaid – for the Security Service as a go-between with Abu Qatada. In this capacity,
he claims to have helped the Service find Abu Qatada, and was given assurances
that, should his work for the Service get him into trouble with the authorities, he
could ask for their assistance. He also claimed that the Service tried to recruit him
when he was in Guantánamo Bay.
143. The issue of whether or not individuals cooperate with the intelligence and
security agencies is extremely sensitive. Disclosing information about this sort of
cooperation, or whether individuals are sources, would jeopardise existing
relationships and dissuade others from helping the services in their future efforts to
tackle the terrorist threat. We cannot therefore confirm or deny any of the
allegations that have been made. We can confirm, however, that we have looked into
the issue in detail, questioned a number of witnesses to assure ourselves of the facts
of the case and have seen the relevant excerpts from Security Service files. We have
included here as much of the detail as we can put in the public domain without
seriously damaging the Agencies’ ability to do their job.
|How MI5 had me kidnapped and thrown into CIA's Dark Prison|
By DAVID ROSE
Last updated at 20:54pm on 28th July 2007
James Bond interviewed informants in nightclubs and luxury hotels.
Le Carré's George Smiley preferred park benches or safe houses in Belgravia. But when Bisher Al-Rawi met the men from MI5, they chose somewhere more prosaic: a table in the basement section of McDonald's in Kensington, West London.
"I always had a Filet-O-Fish," Al-Rawi says drily. "They would only drink. One supposes they didn't like the food."
In the clear: Bisher Al-Rawi has been deemed to pose no threat to America or its allies
It wasn't the only difference between Britain's real and fictional spies. Having risked his life and reputation to inform MI5 about Islamic radicalism in London in the months after 9/11, Al-Rawi was betrayed.
The reward for his unpaid help was a secret emailed "telegram" from the British Security Service to the CIA, in which they told the Americans that Al-Rawi was carrying a timing device for a bomb – in reality, an innocuous battery-charger bought from Argos – on a business trip to Gambia.
Al-Rawi, the telegram added, was an "Iraqi extremist" associate of the London-based preacher Abu Qatada, who was regarded by the Security Services as Osama Bin Laden's "Ambassador" in Europe. The telegram did not, however, mention the crucial fact that he had been seeing Abu Qatada at MI5's behest.
A few months earlier, in the spring of 2002, Abu Qatada was wanted under the Government's 2001 Terrorism Act, which allowed foreign nationals believed to be involved in terrorism to be detained without charge, and had supposedly gone into hiding.
At this time Al-Rawi visited Abu Qatada numerous times with the knowledge of his MI5 handlers, in the hope of arranging a meeting between them. In addition, Al-Rawi had told MI5 all about his own life and his other activities and tried to provide an insight into Britain's Islamic scene.
All of it was thrown in his face. Arrested and interrogated on his arrival in Gambia in 2002, a month later Al-Rawi was flown on an illegal CIA "rendition" flight halfway across the world and spent four-and-a-half years detained without charge in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
From the beginning, he says, the main basis of his hundreds of interrogations was the information he had already freely given to MI5.
Terror suspects on an American flight from Kabul to Cuba
Last week, in two days of interviews, Al-Rawi told his story for the first time, almost four months after his release. He is the first man to describe in detail the CIA's rendition flights, but he also gives a powerful insight into the regime at America's prison at Guantanamo Bay.
He was speaking out for one reason – to help his friend, Jamil el-Banna, who was arrested in Gambia with him and shared his ordeal. Like Al-Rawi, he has now been deemed to pose no threat by the Americans. But el-Banna, a Jordanian who settled in Britain and who has five British children, is still in his cell in Guantanamo because the Government has refused to allow his return.
Al-Rawi looks older than his 39 years and thinner than in photos from before his arrest. Clean-shaven, in designer jeans and a sweatshirt, he remains animated and articulate, punctuating even the grimmest episodes with an expansive, mischievous laugh.
His family came to Britain when Al-Rawi was 16 after his father, a wealthy businessman, was tortured by Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq.
For a time he went to top public school Millfield and later studied engineering at London's Queen Mary and Westfield College. After his father died in 1992 his mother, brother and sister acquired UK citizenship, but Al-Rawi remained an Iraqi, hoping that this would one day make it easier to retrieve property the family had left behind.
Passionate about outdoor activities such as rock-climbing, parachuting and scuba-diving, during the Nineties he ran his own engineering business and learned to fly helicopters.
It was through his business that Al-Rawi got to know Jamil el-Banna.
MI5 target: Abu Qatada
Al-Rawi thinks he met Abu Qatada through a mosque and gradually the friendship progressed as Al-Rawi attended the preacher's prayer meetings in Acton, West London. "I got to know his kids," he says. "My relationship with Abu Qatada wasn't much different from with a lot of people in the community."
Years later, after 9/11, officials would claim that Abu Qatada had been "Osama Bin Laden's ambassador in Europe".
But Al-Rawi insists that although Abu Qatada supported Muslim causes in places such as Chechnya and Kashmir, he never heard him advocate attacks against the West, and that when he was asked whether Muslims in Britain should emulate 9/11, "he went purple with rage, saying, 'That's the last thing we should do.' He said if anyone had asked him, he would have advised against 9/11."
Several times before 9/11 Al-Rawi was asked to be an interpreter at meetings between MI5 officers and Arabic speakers, including Abu Qatada.
Al-Rawi claims MI5 were on cordial terms with Abu Qatada long before 9/11 and had been cultivating him as a useful source on general matters affecting the Muslim community.
"On two occasions I asked the officers in private, 'Is it OK to have a relationship with Abu Qatada? Is this a problem?' They always said it's fine, it's OK."
Several weeks after the Twin Towers attacks, two MI5 men, who called themselves Alex and Matt, came to his home.
"The family was freaking out so I took them to sit in the conservatory and closed the door. They'd done their homework very well – they knew a lot about me. It was like an interview."
They came back a week later but because his family felt uncomfortable, Al-Rawi says they began to meet at a pub in Victoria, and later at McDonald's. "In those early days they were always offering me money. I was clear with them. I told them I wasn't going to be paid. I agreed to talk to MI5 because I believed it would do some good."
But Al-Rawi was concerned lest he might somehow incriminate himself, by speaking of people who – unbeknown to him – really might have links with terrorism. He also sought assurances that everything he said was in confidence.
Soon afterwards, he was asked to meet an MI5 lawyer called Simon. "He gave me very solid assurances about confidentiality," Al-Rawi says. "He promised they would even protect my family if they had to. He said that if I were ever arrested, I should co-operate with the police and if ever a matter got to court he would come as a witness and tell the truth."
Last night, MI5 declined to comment on this or other aspects of the case. Despite repeated and detailed requests, a spokesman did not return calls.
Under the Government's 2001 Terrorism Act, foreign nationals such as Abu Qatada were allowed to be detained without charge. Shortly before the law was passed, Abu Qatada disappeared. Like most of his associates, Al-Rawi had no idea of his whereabouts. But one day in early spring, a stranger phoned and asked to meet him at a London mosque. He took him to a house where Abu Qatada was staying. "He asked me if I could help him find somewhere new."
Through a friend, Al-Rawi found him a flat. "Less than a week later I saw Alex in McDonald's. He asked me, 'Bisher, do you know where Abu Qatada is?' I thought to myself, if I was going to tell a lie, now was the time to do it. But I didn't. I said, 'Yes, I do.'"
A few days later, they met again, this time with Alex's boss, Martin. "He seemed excited. Until then British authorities had no idea where Abu Qatada was."
Soon afterwards Al-Rawi told Abu Qatada that he had informed MI5 he knew where he was. "He looked at me in amazement. He didn't like it, yet at the same time he tolerated it. I really thought I could bring them together."
So began the crazy weeks when Al-Rawi acted as go-between, taking messages between the preacher and MI5. "The balancing act was extreme. Yet I really believe that if they had met, history might have been different. Maybe if Abu Qatada could have talked to MI5 he would have stayed out of jail, and the young hotheads would have listened to him. Who knows? Perhaps there would have been no 7/7."
Free: Bisher Al-Rawi in London with Anas el-Banna, the ten-year-old son of his friend who is still in Guantanamo
Finally, in early summer 2002, Al-Rawi says, he was sure that Abu Qatada was ready to meet MI5 officers, but quickly changed his mind. Soon afterwards Al-Rawi had a final phone call from Alex. "It was a brief conversation terminating our relationship. It was very tense, like breaking off with a girlfriend. But I was also relieved – it was a huge load off my shoulders."
Eventually, in October 2002, Abu Qatada was arrested under the 2001 Terrorism Act. Later MI5 claimed in court they were unaware of his whereabouts for almost a year. Al-Rawi finds this implausible. "As I told Abu Qatada at the time, all they had to do was follow me on my motorbike. I am certain that they did."
It was Al-Rawi's brother, Wahhab, who had the idea of setting up a business in Gambia. A family friend told them that peanut-processing plants – where nuts are shelled in situ and turned into oil – could be lucrative.
Wahhab travelled ahead to Gambia and on November 1, 2002, Al-Rawi, el-Banna and another friend, Abdullah el-Janoudi, tried to board a flight from Gatwick to Banjul, Gambia's capital.
The previous evening, MI5 and the police visited el-Banna and, according to an MI5 memo disclosed to his lawyers, tried to recruit him. El-Banna refused but officers promised he could travel to Gambia 'without a problem' and later return to the UK.
It was not to be. The three men were stopped at Gatwick airport, searched and detained for five days at Paddington Green police station. Among a number of 'suspicious' items found in Al-Rawi's luggage were a £12 battery-charger, drill bits, a gas cylinder and a bundle of electrical wires wrapped around set of tweezers.
Al-Rawi insisted they were tools and parts he needed for the peanut-processing plant.
Two days after their release, the three men went ahead with their plans and flew to Gambia.
But by now the damage had been done. On the day of the arrests, MI5 sent its first telegram to the CIA, describing the charger as "a timing device [that] could possibly be used as some part of a car-based IED [improvised explosive device]". A second telegram three days later failed to correct this, repeating the claim that Al-Rawi was "an Islamic extremist" and saying the men would soon be on their way.
In a report last week on the case, the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee cited testimony it was given in secret from MI5, claiming that the service had sent 'caveats' with the telegrams asking for no action to be taken. These, it was clear, were ignored.
"This case shows a lack of regard on the part of the US for UK concerns," said the committee. "This has serious implications for the working of the relationship between the US and UK intelligence and security agencies."
It added that MI5 "could not have foreseen" that the US would disregard the caveats and that both Al-Rawi and el-Banna had been formally "cleared for release" by the Guantanamo authorities. The committee said MI5 "should have told Ministers about the case at the time" and were concerned it took several years and a court case by the two men's lawyers to bring it to their attention.
Surprisingly, perhaps, the committee concluded that the false information about the battery-charger was not the main reason for the men's arrest. In any event, all three were held when they arrived in Banjul, together with Wahhab and his local agent, who had come to the airport to meet them.
The following morning, Al-Rawi was confronted by his interrogators, led by an American called Lee. "From the beginning, the questions made it plain that the Americans had been given the contents of my own MI5 file which was supposed to be confidential," says Al-Rawi.
"Lee even told me the British were giving him information. I had agreed to help MI5 because I wanted to prevent terrorism, and now the information I had freely given them was being used against me in an attempt to prove that I myself was some kind of terrorist."
He was also accused of having planned to start a Gambian terrorist training camp. During his last week there, one of the Americans came to Al-Rawi's cell. "He told me, 'We know you were working for MI5.' He said I was going to Afghanistan but if I told the truth, I would get out. He said he would go to the media if I didn't [get out]. Needless to say, he never did."
Days before the men's illegal rendition, MI5 told the parliamentary committee, the Americans informed them it was going to happen. Nevertheless, the British said they would not attempt to extend consular protection to Al-Rawi and el-Banna but only to Wahhab and el-Janoudi – the UK citizens – who were promptly released. El-Banna and Al-Rawi were shackled, blindfolded and hooded, then taken to a car.
"My hands were cuffed behind my back," says Al-Rawi. "It was incredibly uncomfortable. I could barely breathe through the hood.
"At last we got to the airport – I knew because I could hear jet engines. I had to sit for a while in some kind of waiting room, with two Gambian guards either side of me. They were nice, they could see I was in pain and one of them started to massage my feet. They stood me up and walked me a few paces, then let go. Two other guys grabbed me really hard and started dragging me. I thought, 'Ah-ha, these are the Americans.'"
Then, he says, six or seven Americans, dressed in black and wearing balaclavas, cut off his clothes and removed his hood. "They dressed me in two layers of nappies and tracksuit bottoms and a top. There was no light in the room. One of them shone a torch in my eye. He was trying to blind me, make it impossible to see. I was so angry and despairing but I tried to be witty. I told him, 'Excuse me, but I think your torch needs a new battery.'"
Al-Rawi says that over his clothes "they put a harness, and shackled and cuffed me again, fixing the chains through the harness. They dragged me forcefully up the stairs and into the plane. They forced me on to a stretcher and tied me to it so tightly I could hardly move at all.
"I felt trussed like an animal, lying on my back. There were belts restraining my feet, legs and my body. They covered my eyes with a blindfold and then goggles, and put something over my ears. I could still hear the plane's engines. I knew we were about to take off.
"To say it was extremely stressful is a real understatement. All the way through that flight I was on the verge of screaming. But somehow you just hold on.
"At last we landed, I thought, thank God it's over. But it wasn't – it was just a refuelling stop in Cairo. There were hours still to go.
"They hadn't told me I was wearing nappies and I was desperate to urinate. I was fighting not to soil myself, and it was adding to the pain. I asked three times to go to the toilet, and still they would not let me. My back was so painful, the handcuffs were so tight. All the time they kept me on my back.
"Once, I managed to wriggle a tiny bit, just shifted my weight to one side. Then I felt someone hit my hand. Even this was forbidden."
At last, Al-Rawi says, he felt the plane descending. He had landed in Kabul. Released from the stretcher and thrown forcefully into a truck, he was driven to the most notorious of the CIA's "black sites" – the Afghan Dark Prison.
Al-Rawi's blindfold had been removed, but the darkness was absolute. The unheated cell was so cold he could feel ice crystals on the water he was occasionally given to drink. "For three days or so I just sat in the corner, shivering. The only time there was light was when a guard came to check on me with a dim torch – as soon as he'd detect movement, he would leave.
"I tried to do a few push-ups and jogged on the spot to keep warm. There was no toilet-paper but I tore off my nappies and tried to use them to clean myself. I kept telling myself, 'They haven't killed me yet, this is good.'"
After about a fortnight, he and el-Banna were taken to Bagram, where interrogations began again. On the way, "they really beat me up. Of course I was hooded, so I couldn't see anything. But you know how in cartoons when people get hit on the head they see stars? I thought, ah, now I know what those cartoons mean. I saw stars".
He and el-Banna came under pressure to incriminate Abu Qatada, who was by now being held at the high-security Belmarsh prison. He was later transferred to Long Martin where he is still fighting deportation from the UK – where he faces no criminal charge. However, he has been convicted in absentia of terrorist offences in Jordan on the evidence of co-defendants who had been tortured.
This, says Gareth Peirce, the solicitor who represents Al-Rawi, el-Banna and Abu Qatada, is the real reason why el-Banna is still in Guantanamo. The Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, says she is considering whether to rescind his status as a refugee.
If so, he would be taken to Jordan – and there, perhaps, finally tortured into giving evidence.
Al-Rawi and el-Banna were taken to Guantanamo in March 2003 – a regime of isolation and casual brutality. Until his release on March 31 this year, Al-Rawi was held in Camp 5, where communication between inmates is impossible.
During his years in prison, Al-Rawi sank into depression. "One tried hard to be normal, to maintain balance. The thing was, the people around me were suffering so much and in the end you can't help feeling pretty bad yourself. Jamil knew his mother wasn't well and he begged to be allowed to phone her, to speak to her before she died. They refused and she passed away last year."
Only his lawyers, including Peirce, Clive Stafford Smith and Zachary Katznelson from the campaign group Reprieve, and the letters from wellwishers kept him going. "The first lawyer I met was an American, Brent Mickum. I felt like a drowning man in the ocean who had suddenly been given a lifeline."
MI5, it was evident, had not fulfilled its promise to help Al-Rawi if he ever got into trouble. But after he had been in Guantanamo for about six months, an officer came to see him. "It was someone I hadn't seen before. He asked me, 'Do you feel betrayed?'"
Later, his former handler Alex paid a visit. "He was nice enough. He asked if I wanted anything. I asked for a book. He never came back and I never got the book."
His last and strangest visit came from MI5 officers Matt and Martin. Al-Rawi says they tried to recruit him again, saying: "You know, Bisher, if you agree to work for us when you get back to Britain, we'll get you out." There was to be yet another broken promise. When Al-Rawi came before a Guantanamo tribunal supposed to assess whether his detention was justified, he asked for Matt, Alex and Simon to corroborate his story as witnesses.
The British refused to identify them, and the Americans said that because he did not know their full, real names, they could not be traced.
Al-Rawi has now been cleared by the Americans of being involved in terrorism and deemed to pose no threat to America or its allies.
Perhaps surprisingly, he says he feels no bitterness towards America or Americans in general. MI5, however, has left him deeply disappointed. "I used to think of them as cool, tough, as gentlemen. I used to speak about them in the Muslim community, saying they had a level of dignity and that we could trust them.
"When I got back home, one of the first messages I got was from a friend who said, 'Bisher, they weren't very honourable, were they?' I suppose he was right. All the credit for what I went through goes to them."
Revealed: MI5's role in torture flight hell
· British source tells of betrayal to CIA
· 'I was stripped and hauled to US base'
Sunday July 29, 2007
An Iraqi who was a key source of intelligence for MI5 has given the first ever full insider's account of being seized by the CIA and bundled on to an illegal 'torture flight' under the programme known as extraordinary rendition.
In a remarkable interview for The Observer, British resident Bisher al-Rawi has told how he was betrayed by the security service despite having helped keep track of Abu Qatada, the Muslim cleric accused of being Osama bin Laden's 'ambassador in Europe'. He was abducted and stripped naked by US agents, clad in nappies, a tracksuit and shackles, blindfolded and forced to wear ear mufflers, then strapped to a stretcher on board a plane bound for a CIA 'black site' jail near Kabul in Afghanistan.
He was taken on to the jail at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba before being released last March and returned to Britain after four years' detention without charge.
'All the way through that flight I was on the verge of screaming,' al-Rawi said. 'At last we landed, I thought, thank God it's over. But it wasn't - it was just a refuelling stop in Cairo. There were hours still to go ... My back was so painful, the handcuffs were so tight. All the time they kept me on my back. Once, I managed to wriggle a tiny bit, just shifted my weight to one side. Then I felt someone hit my hand. Even this was forbidden.'
He was thrown into the CIA's 'Dark Prison,' deprived of all light 24 hours a day in temperatures so low that ice formed on his food and water. He was taken to Guantanamo in March 2003 and released after being cleared of any involvement in terrorism by a tribunal.
A report by Parliament's intelligence and security committee last week disclosed that, although the Americans warned MI5 it planned to render al-Rawi in advance, in breach of international law, the British did not intervene on the grounds he did not have a UK passport. The government claimed he was the responsibility of Iraq, which he fled as a teenager when his father was tortured by Saddam Hussein's regime.
The report confirmed that al-Rawi, 39, was only held after MI5 sent the CIA a telegram, stating he was an 'Islamic extremist' who had a timer for an improvised bomb in his luggage. In reality, before al-Rawi left London, police confirmed the device was a battery charger from Argos.
The committee accepted MI5's claim, given in secret testimony, that it had not wanted the Americans to arrest him, in November 2002, concluding the incident had damaged US-UK relations.
But al-Rawi alleged that the CIA told him they had been given the contents of his own MI5 file - information he had given his handlers freely when he was working as their source. He said an MI5 lawyer had given him 'cast iron' assurances that anything he told them would be treated in the strictest confidence and, if he ever got into trouble, MI5 would do everything in its power to help him.
When al-Rawi was in Guantanamo, he asked the American authorities to find his former MI5 handlers so they would corroborate his story but, because he did not know their surnames, MI5 said it could not assist.
The committee report cited MI5 testimony claiming that when al-Rawi was transported in December 2002, it could not have known how harsh his treatment might be. Yet eight months earlier, Amnesty International had published a lengthy report on US detention in Afghanistan, quoting several ex-prisoners who described conditions very similar to those experienced by al-Rawi.
He had conveyed messages between the preacher Abu Qatada and MI5 when Qatada was supposedly in hiding in 2002. At MI5's behest, he came close to arranging a meeting between the two sides.
Al-Rawi has now spoken out in an effort to help his friend Jamil el-Banna, who remains in Guantanamo. A Jordan-ian who also lived in London for years, where his wife and five children are British citizens, he too has been cleared by the Americans. However, he has been unable to leave Guantanamo because Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, says she is reviewing his right of residence on national security grounds.
Sarah Teather, the Liberal Democrat MP for Brent East in London, where el-Banna lives, said his case revealed 'decrepitude at the heart of the government'. The government had 'no regard for the welfare of his children'.
His lawyers have filed a statement from al-Rawi as part of a judicial review case. In the action, they accuse MI5 of having a 'causative role' in both men's ordeals, stating it was 'complicit' in the illegal rendition and guilty of an 'abuse of power'.
|From The Times|
July 30, 2007
MI5 betrayed me, says Guantanamo man
A former public schoolboy who was detained in Guantanamo Bay for four years has confirmed publicly that he was an informant for MI5.
Bisher al-Rawi, 39, an Iraqi who has lived in Britain since childhood, said that he had acted as an intermediary between the intelligence service and Abu Qatada, a radical Islamist cleric with ties to al-Qaeda.
In an interview with Channel 4 News to be screened today, Mr al-Rawi said that he had refused MI5’s offers of money and a British passport in return for his help.
His information helped the authorities to find Abu Qatada, who had been in hiding for ten months trying to avoid arrest under emergency antiterrorist legislation, in October 2002.
However, when Mr al-Rawi flew to The Gambia the following month, MI5 informed the CIA by telegram that he was an extremist.
The Americans arrested him in the West African state, held him under house arrest for several weeks then flew him to the notorious “Dark Prison” in Afghanistan where he was denied food and tortured.
In March 2003, shackled and hooded, he was flown to Guantanamo Bay on one of the CIA’s “ghost flights”.
Mr al-Rawi, who attended Millfield School in Somerset as a teenager, said that he felt he had been betrayed by the Security Service.
“I entered this relationship [with MI5] with goodwill and I think what they’ve done to me is very, very bad,” he told Channel 4. “People could make their own conclusions about this. My experience was very, very bad from beginning to end.”
Mr al-Rawi spoke of how he was visited at Guantanamo Bay by some of his MI5 handlers, whom he knew by the names Alex, Matthew and Martin.
He described the meeting, ironically, as “a reunion” but not one that he had planned. He claimed that during one visit the officers had tried again to recruit him as an agent.
They also promised to help get Mr al-Rawi released – but when he wanted them called as witnesses before a US military tribunal he was told they could not be produced.
Mr al-Rawi said: “I thought their promises to me, Matthew and Alex, meant this was the time to resolve this – if I just ask for them everything will be said, clarified, and this whole episode is over.
“Unfortunately the authorities in the UK refused to offer any explanation or say anything about the situation and that did not help me at all.”
Mr al-Rawi said that when he was first approached by MI5 in Britain he had been afraid he would get into trouble. He said: “We had a couple of initial meetings. There was not a problem. I asked them, ‘What do you want now?’ They wanted more. They wanted help to understand things. I was concerned they were trying to entrap me or get me into trouble. I was very, very clear and explicit about this.
“They started assuring me that this was absolutely not the way they operated and that was not their intention. I asked for their assurances and they gave me them in a way that was very, very solid.”
Last week the Intelligence and Security Committee criticised MI5 for its role in the arrest of Mr al-Rawi and his rendition to Cuba. The committee said that MI5 and MI6 had been “slow to detect” the CIA’s use of “extraordinary rendition” to take suspects to Guantanamo Bay. It added that British Intelligence “should always have sought assurances on detainee treatment” when dealing with US agencies in such situations.
The committee concluded: “The cases of Bisher al-Rawi and Jamil el-Banna and others during 2002 demonstrated that the US was willing to conduct ‘Rendition to Detention’ operations anywhere in the world, including against those unconnected with the conflict in Afghanistan.”
Mr al-Rawi was finally released from Guantanamo Bay in March after Britain agreed to let him return to his family in New Malden, Surrey.
The Government is, however, refusing to seek the return of Jamil el-Banna, Mr al-Rawi’s friend who was arrested with him in 2002, because he is not a British national, although his children were born in London and live there.
The High Court has given the Home Secretary a deadline of Thursday week to disclose whether or not she will accept Mr el-Banna’s return to Britain or face a judicial review of the Government’s stance.
|ast Modified: 30 Jul 2007|
By: Channel 4 News
Jon Snow talks exclusively to the MI5 recruit who was abandoned in Guantanamo Bay for four years by the same agents he helped after 9/11.
In an exclusive interview with Channel 4 News to be broadcast tonight former Guantanamo Bay detainee Bisher al-Rawi tells Jon Snow how the same MI5 officers who recruited him in the UK visited him in Cuba, interrogated him but failed to secure his release - breaking their earlier promise to protect him.
Mr al-Rawi says: "It was the same guys. The MI5 guys who I knew from the UK passed by Guantanamo and wanted to say hello.
Jon Snow: "Not Matthew and Alex?"
Bisher al-Rawi: "Matthew, Alex and Martin as well."
Jon Snow: "You're joking?"
Bisher al-Rawi: (with irony) "No, no. It was a reunion. We had to have a reunion. That's exactly how it was."
Jon Snow: "The same people who approached you in the first place turned up at Guantanamo?"
Bisher al-Rawi: "Yes. It was a coincidence. It wasn't planned. I did not plan it. Alex, Matthew and Martin were there."
Mr al-Rawi tells Channel 4 News how he was recruited by MI5 weeks after the events of 9/11 to be used as a go-between between the security services and the Islamic cleric Abu Qatada - who they later arrested and is now in detention.
'I could easily understand the tension that had arisen and I had no problem whatsoever explaining myself or those around me to the authorities in the hope that we could reduce, if not resolve the problem.'
He says: "It was two or three weeks after 9/11 ... they came to where I lived with my sister and her husband ... it was just a general sort of introductory conversation ... getting a feel for me, understanding me, understanding my situation. I know for a fact they kept an eye on myself and many other people. I had no problem with that.
"I think that after 9/11 everything was very very difficult. I could easily understand the tension that had arisen and I had no problem whatsoever explaining myself or those around me to the authorities in the hope that we could reduce, if not resolve the problem.
"For me and I'm sure for almost everybody, to be interviewed or seen by MI5 is an extremely unusual and difficult experience and that's how it was for me. I was worried I have to say.
"We had a couple of initial meetings. There was not a problem. I asked them 'what do you want now'? They wanted more. They wanted help to understand things. I was concerned they were trying to entrap me or get me into trouble. I was very very clear and explicit about this.
"They started assuring me that this was absolutely not the way they operated and that was not their intention. I asked for their assurances and they gave me them in a way that was very very solid."
'Unfortunately authorities in the UK refused to offer any explanation or say anything about the situation and that did not help me at all.'
Bisher al-Rawi was arrested in the Gambia in 2002 and rendered into detention at the 'dark prison' in Kabul, Afghanistan. Here he was denied food, water and light.
He was then taken to Bagram airbase, where he was beaten up and then on to Guantanamo Bay, where he was interrogated for four years before finally being released in March this year.
Talking about his plea for the MI5 officers to help him by giving evidence at his military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay, he says: "I thought their promises to me, Mathew and Alex, this is the time to resolve this, if I just ask for them everything will be said, clarified, and this whole episode is over.
"Unfortunately authorities in the UK refused to offer any explanation or say anything about the situation and that did not help me at all."
Just this very week the Intelligence and Security Committee corroborated Mr al-Rawi's claim that the security services abandoned him.
In its report on rendition it states: "... We consider that the Security Service should have informed ministers about the case at the time, and are concerned that it took *** years, and a court case, to bring it to their attention."
Jon Snow asks Mr al-Rawi what his advice would be to other Muslims who are approached by 'Matthew and Alex'.
He replies: "Well these are very complex and difficult decisions. Everyone must make their own decision but I entered this relationship with goodwill and I think what they've done to me is very very bad. People could make their own conclusions about this, my experience was very very bad from beginning to end."
|'Torture flight' airline sued by MI5 informer|
Sunday August 5, 2007
Bisher al-Rawi, the British-based Iraqi and former MI5 source detained by America for more than four years, is suing the US private airline that transported him to Afghanistan on an illegal CIA 'extraordinary rendition' torture flight.
Last week's Observer revealed how MI5 failed to protect al-Rawi when US agents abducted him during a business trip to Gambia in November 2002, despite the fact that he had helped the Security Service keep tabs on the radical preacher Abu Qatada - Osama bin Laden's 'ambassador to Europe' - when he was in hiding.
After a month being interrogated in Gambia, he was rendered to the CIA's 'dark prison' in Kabul on a US charter plane, chained, immobilised and in nappies. Later he spent four years in Guantanamo Bay before being released in March, cleared of any connection with terrorism.
He has joined a legal action already filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of three other detainees, including a UK resident, Binyam Mohammed, an Ethiopian. It claims that the aviation firm Jeppesen, a subsidiary of Boeing, 'knowingly provided direct flight services to the CIA enabling the clandestine transportation of Bisher al-Rawi to secret overseas locations where he was subjected to torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.'
'Being a victim of the CIA's rendition programme was horrific beyond words,' al-Rawi said yesterday.
Jeppesen this weekend declined to comment.
|Britain seeks Guantánamo releases|
Tuesday August 7, 2007
he British government has requested the release of five former UK residents being held in Guantánamo bay, the Foreign Office said today.
The foreign secretary, David Miliband, has written to the US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, asking that the men be freed from the US base in Cuba. They are not British nationals but had lived in the UK before they were detained, the Foreign Office said.
The decision by the prime minister, Gordon Brown, marks a break from his predecessor, Tony Blair, who generally held that the British government was not obliged to seek the release of Guantánamo inmates who had lived in Britain but did not hold citizenship.
The five - Shaker Aamer, Jamil el-Banna, Omar Deghayes, Binyam Mohamed and Abdennour Sameur - had been granted refugee status, indefinite leave or exceptional leave to remain before they were detained. Britain secured the release and return of all UK nationals held at Guantánamo by January 2005.
The Foreign Office said the new approach was aimed at speeding up the closure of the centre, and was in line with recent steps by the US to reduce the numbers of detainees.
The Foreign Office said: "The foreign secretary and home secretary have reviewed the government's approach to this group of individuals in light of these ongoing developments, our long-held policy aim of securing the closure of Guantánamo Bay, and the need to maintain national security.
"They have decided to request the release and return of the five detainees who have links to the UK as former residents, having been granted refugee status, indefinite leave or exceptional leave to remain prior to their detention.
"Our representations are limited to those with links to the United Kingdom as evidenced by their past lawful residence here."
The Foreign Office statement cautioned that the release and return of the men might take some time. "The government will, of course, continue to take all necessary measures to maintain national security. Should these men be returned to the UK, the same security considerations and actions will apply to them as would apply to any other foreign national in this country."
Civil liberties groups welcomed the government's new tack. James Welch, the legal director for Liberty, said: "This change of policy is extremely welcome, especially if it signals a bigger change of approach on both sides of the Atlantic. Surely US and UK governments need no further evidence that internment, kidnap and torture have been completely counterproductive in the struggle against terrorism."
Amnesty International said: "Guantánamo is a travesty of justice and it's important that the government starts speaking out about hundreds of men still held there - they must not become Guantánamo's forgotten prisoners. Meanwhile, the UK government should unequivocally condemn the practice of rendition and secret detention - both of which have fed the system at Guantánamo in the past five years."
Britain has strongly criticised the US policy of holding detainees at Guantánamo in legal limbo. Last year the former lord chancellor Lord Falconer described it as a "shocking affront to the principles of democracy".
In June, the former US secretary of state Colin Powell called for the immediate closure of the camp and the transfer of prisoners to the US.
About 380 detainees remain at the prison, which was opened by the US government in 2002 to hold foreign terror suspects, initially from the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan. The inmates, given the status of "enemy combatants", are not granted the same rights as prisoners of war, and are tried by special military tribunals.
In a June letter to the US president, George Bush, the US-based group Human Rights Watch said the continued detentions at Guantánamo, without charge and without any meaningful review of the legal basis of detention, had directly undermined US efforts to fight terrorism. "The loss of moral high ground caused by the ongoing detentions at Guantánamo has been a boon to terrorist recruitment."
Last month the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, was told by the high court that she had until 4pm on August 9 to decide whether Jamil el-Banna would be allowed to return and live in the UK after his release.
Mr Justice Beatson made the order as he gave Mr Banna's solicitors permission to seek a judicial review of the government's failure to confirm that he would be allowed to return and live with his wife and five children - all British nationals - at their home in Dollis Hill, north-west London.
The lawyers argue he has been unlawfully detained by the Americans for more than four and a half years. Mr Banna, 45, was arrested on suspicion of having links to al-Qaida in November 2002 during a visit to Gambia, west Africa. He was taken by the Americans to Bagram air base in Afghanistan before being transferred to Guantánamo.
|Guantanamo Five branded dangerous|
Sunday, August 12, 2007
Britain has signalled its intent to press ahead with a bid to have five terror suspects returned from Guantanamo Bay despite reports that a US official had dubbed them "extremely dangerous".
Foreign Secretary David Miliband has requested the former UK residents be sent back from the US detention centre in Guantanamo, Cuba, in a reversal of previous UK policy.
The US is considering the request but the Sunday Times said the Pentagon's head of detainee affairs had warned some of the men had close associations with senior al-Qaeda figures.
Sandra Hodgkinson, deputy assistant secretary of defence for detainee affairs, reportedly said: "Among these men are some extremely dangerous individuals... if they are sent back to the United Kingdom they could pose a risk.
"Because of some of the extensive ties these individuals have with well known al-Qaeda leaders, we have concerns that they will try to reconnect with some of their old counterparts and return to the fight in the sense that they will try to carry out attacks, whether it's in England or elsewhere."
Lawyer Clive Stafford Smith, who represents the men, dismissed the allegations as "a blatant attempt to smear my clients".
The men are Shaker Aamer, a London resident originally from Saudi Arabia; Jamil El Banna, whose family lives in Dollis Hill, north-west London and who was a refugee from Jordan; Omar Deghayes, who lived in Brighton and was a refugee from Libya; Binyam Mohamed, who lived in Kensington, west London, and had applied for asylum from Ethiopia; and Abdennour Sameur, a refugee from Algeria who lived in Bournemouth.
They are not British nationals but were legally resident in the UK before they were detained.
A Foreign Office source indicated that the Government was prepared for "long and complex negotiations" with the US, adding: "Clearly the US would not release them and the UK would not be requesting their return if they presented a risk to international or national security."
A spokeswoman for the Home Office said national security was Home Secretary Jacqui Smith's "foremost concern" but that the request still stood.