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How Guantanamo brothers 'became victims of MI5 plot'

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  • Zafar Khan
    How Guantanamo brothers became victims of MI5 plot By Robert Verkaik Published: 29 March 2006 http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/legal/article354241.ece One of
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 31, 2006
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      How Guantanamo brothers 'became victims of MI5 plot'
      By Robert Verkaik
      Published: 29 March 2006


      One of four British citizens and residents seized by
      the Americans in Africa before two of them were flown
      to Guantanamo Bay has told The Independent that they
      were victims of an MI5 plot.

      Wahab al-Rawi, whose brother Bisher has been held in
      the US naval base in Cuba for three years, says that
      US interrorgators told him the British were directly
      responsible for his arrest and detention. The new
      claims confirm previous allegations that Britain has
      played a major role in the "extraordinary rendition"
      of terror suspects by handing them over to the
      Americans without legal authority.

      In his first interview since his arrest in November
      2002, Mr al-Rawi says soon after his detention he
      asked to see someone from the British High Commission
      in Gambia but was told by the Americans: "Who do you
      do think ordered your arrest in the first place? They
      don't want to talk to you."

      Mr al-Rawi claims that the only reason he and another
      man were allowed to return to Britain after 28 days of
      questioning by US intelligence officers was because
      they could claim British citizenship. His brother,
      Bisher, and Jamil el-Banna, both residents in Britain,
      were flown to Bagram air base in Afghanistan before
      being transferred to Guantanamo.

      Intelligence reports made by MI5 which have been
      submitted to the all-party group on extraordinary
      rendition support Mr al-Rawi's testimony and show the
      weakness of the case against the four men.

      Part of this evidence, which was passed on to the
      Americans, includes allegations that Bisher al-Rawi
      had an interest in "extreme sports" while Wahab was
      described as playing a lead role in setting up a
      peanut-processing factory in the Gambia. MI5
      "intelligence" on the men also revealed that they
      carried copies of the Koran and had had an electronic
      device which turned out to be an ordinary battery

      Bisher al-Rawi, 38, and Wahab, 40, came to this
      country in the early 1980s after their father fell
      under the suspicion of Saddam Hussein. They lived in
      Cambridge where they took their O-levels before
      continuing their schooling at Millfield School,
      Somerset, and Concord College, Shropshire.

      They later attended separate universities. Wahab read
      mechanical engineering at Salford and Bisher read
      material engineering at University College London. In
      1992 Wahab took British nationality while his brother
      decided to retain his Iraqi citizenship as he did not
      want to damage his ties with his home country.

      It was Wahab's business interests that brought the two
      brothers to Gambia in November 2002. "I had this
      business idea for a mobile peanut-oil processing
      factory," he told The Independent. "I had done the
      feasibility study, it was all ready to go. I had my
      team and we brought Bisher in on the deal towards the

      From the start there were ominous signs that the trip
      was not going to be straightforward. On the day of his
      departure flight, Wahab was detained at City Airport
      in east London by two men who described themselves as
      airport security officers but whom Wahab suspected of
      being MI5 officers.

      The men wanted to find out about an alleged terror
      suspect called Abu Qatada whom Wahab had known for
      many years and had met four days before his flight. Mr
      Qatada is now imprisoned in Britain as a terror
      suspect and was once called Osama bin Laden's
      spiritual representative in Europe. The brothers had
      come to rely on him as an authority on Islamic law and
      that was why Wahab had gone to see him. "I needed to
      know whether, under Islamic law, it was allowed for
      partners in a firm to be paid wages - he told me it
      wasn't and so I thanked him and left."

      Four days after Wahab had arrived in Gambia he went to
      Banjul airport to meet his brother, Mr el-Banna and
      Abdullah el-Ganudi, a British citizen.

      Three days earlier, the three men had been arrested at
      Gatwick airport when they first tried to fly out to
      Gambia. They were taken to Paddington Green police
      station in west London on suspicion of carrying an
      explosive device which turned out to be the harmless
      battery charger. It was the intelligence obtained from
      these interviews and searches that was passed on to
      Gambian and US authorities.

      As Wahab approached his brother at Banjul airport he
      became aware of a problem with immigration. Gambian
      officials had confiscated their passports and they
      were being taken to an interview room.

      "They began by saying there was an irregularity with
      their visas. But it became clear it was more than that
      because they took us to the headquarters of the
      Gambian National Intelligence Agency in Banjul. We
      were questioned by Gambians for a few hours before
      being moved to another room where two US officers took
      over," says Wahab. "I'm afraid I lost my temper and
      demanded to see the British High Commissioner and my
      lawyer. They said it was much too late for that."

      For the next three to four days the four men were
      moved around the building from room to room,
      alternately questioned by Americans and Gambians.

      Says Wahab: "I agreed to answer the Gambian questions
      but refused to answer any of the Americans'. I was
      scared but didn't know why I should co-operate."

      Four days after Wahab had met Bisher at the airport
      they were taken from the NIA headquarters to a secret
      location in the Banjul suburbs. It was here that
      Bisher begged his brother to co-operate with the
      Americans because "we have nothing to hide."

      "We were all in the house," Wahab said, "and during a
      break from interrogations Bisher told me to stop being
      difficult and answer the questions so we could all be
      sent back home. So I did. I agreed to tell them all
      about the business we were planning and why we were in

      Mr el-Janudi and Wahab were separated from the other
      two and taken back to interrogation suites in the NIA
      building where the Americans began repeating the

      "After I had answered their questions about the trip
      they started accusing me of coming to Gambia to start
      a training camp for a terrorist campaign against
      American targets. It was at this point that I withdrew
      my co-operation because the questioning was getting
      ridiculous. Once again I demanded to see someone from
      the High Commission. This was when they said: 'Who do
      you do think ordered your arrest in the first place?
      They don't want to talk to you.' Now it was clear we
      had been set up and betrayed by the country we had
      adopted as our own."

      Guantánamo's day of reckoning in supreme court

      · Case pits presidential powers against law of war
      · Detainee argues tribunals are unconstitutional

      Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington
      Wednesday March 29, 2006
      The Guardian


      The US supreme court was urged yesterday to rein in
      President George Bush's use of his powers as a wartime
      president, challenging his order to dispatch al-Qaida
      suspects to trial before military tribunals.

      In arguments that could redefine the balance between
      presidential power and the laws of war, lawyers for
      Salim Ahmed Hamdan, an inmate at Guantánamo, told the
      court that Mr Bush had violated basic military
      protections with his November 2001 executive order
      setting up the tribunals.

      Mr Hamdan, a Yemeni accused of driving a pick-up truck
      for Osama bin Laden, was captured in Afghanistan in
      November 2001 and charged with war crimes. The Bush
      administration claims he conspired with the al-Qaida
      leader to carry out attacks in the US. He says he was
      merely working to support his family, and needed the
      $200-a-month salary.
      The case challenges the Bush administration's
      justification for holding people without recourse to
      US courts or the Geneva convention.

      Terror suspects brought before the tribunals do not
      have the right to an attorney of their choice or to
      see the evidence against them. Even if they are
      acquitted and freed, the verdict can be reversed by
      the defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.

      Mr Hamdan's lawyers contended yesterday that that
      makes the tribunals unconstitutional because they
      allow the president to define the crime, and select
      the prosecutor and judges who act as jury.

      "This is a military commission that is literally
      unburdened by the laws, constitution and treaties of
      the United States," one lawyer, Neal Katyal, told the

      To date, none of the 500 or so detainees at Guantánamo
      have appeared before a military tribunal, although 10
      have been consigned for trial.

      Under questioning from justices Antonin Scalia and
      Samuel Alito, Mr Katyal rejected the administration's
      argument that Mr Hamdan should wait until after his
      appearance before a tribunal to challenge the
      president's definition of the laws of war. "The
      government has had four years to get their charges
      together on Mr Hamdan," he said.

      "We are talking about just a set of core ideas that
      every country around the world is supposed to dispense
      when they create wartime trials, and even that minimum
      standard the government doesn't want to apply here."

      Lawyers for the Bush administration say the president
      derives his authority for the executive order from his
      powers as commander in chief. In addition, they note
      that Congress recently enacted legislation barring
      Guantánamo detainees from being heard in the US

      The chief justice, John Roberts, has withdrawn from
      the case because he ruled on Mr Hamdan while serving
      on an appeals court. But Justice Scalia has resisted
      demands to withdraw from civil rights organisations,
      members of Congress, and a group of retired US
      generals and admirals. He came under a barrage of
      criticism after comments at an appearance at the
      University of Freiburg in Switzerland this month were
      reported by Newsweek magazine.

      In his discussions, Justice Scalia reportedly said
      terror suspects did not deserve the right to a trial,
      adding that he had a son who had served in the US
      military in Iraq: "I had a son on that battlefield and
      they were shooting at my son, and I'm not about to
      give this man who was captured in a war a full jury
      trial. I mean it's crazy."

      Lawyers for the detainees had been looking forward to
      yesterday's proceedings as a chance to begin pulling
      down the legal framework claimed by the Bush
      administration in its conduct of the "war on terror".

      The case has attracted several prominent supporters,
      including the former secretary of state, Madeleine
      Albright. In a speech on Monday, a military lawyer for
      Mr Hamdan, Navy Lieutenant Commander Charles Swift,
      said all he wanted was a full trial. "When our
      citizens are abroad and these things are done, how
      will we say it was wrong?" he said.

      But it is not entirely clear that the supreme court
      will emerge with a firm directive when it hands down
      its decision later this year. The withdrawal of Chief
      Justice Roberts brings the membership of the court
      down to eight, deepening the potential for a deadlock.

      More importantly, the detainees may have been
      shortcircuited by a law passed by Congress last
      December which barred the use of torture, but then
      added a rider denying Guantánamo detainees the right
      to have their cases heard in US federal courts.


      The establishment of military trials at Guantánamo Bay
      defines the Bush administration's view of the sweeping
      powers of a US president in wartime. In November 2001,
      President Bush signed an order setting up military
      commissions to try suspected members of al-Qaida,
      saying the terror suspects were not entitled to Geneva
      convention protection.

      He said they were not part of a regular army nor US
      citizens entitled to a US court hearing. No trial has
      taken place under the commissions, which bear no
      relation to courts martial. Suspects are not
      guaranteed a lawyer and do not see all the evidence.
      Any commission decision can be overturned by defence
      secretary, Donald Rumsfeld

      More about Guantanamo Prisoner abuse at:
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