Disclosure of documents would harm US/UK relations
- Releasing details about a prisoner held in Guantánamo Bay would
damage UK relations with America, court told
Disclosure of prisoner details would harm national security, says US
Binyam Mohamed, a UK resident held in Guantánamo Bay. Photograph: PA
The US state department today warned that disclosure of secret
information in the case of a British resident said to have been
tortured before he was sent to Guantánamo Bay would cause "serious
and lasting damage" to security relations between the two countries.
In a last-minute court intervention, a legal adviser to the US state
department also claimed that the "national security of the UK" would
be affected by disclosure of the details of the detention and
interrogation of Binyam Mohamed, who is being held in Guantánamo Bay
accused of conspiring with al-Qaida.
Lawyers for the 30-year-old Ethiopian national, backed by the
organisation Reprieve, took legal action to demand access to details
of the whereabouts and manner of his interrogation from the time he
was detained in 2002 until he was taken to Guantánamo Bay in 2004.
Mohamed claims that his torture included having his penis cut with a
In an email to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which was sent
on to the court, Stephen Mathias, a legal adviser to the US state
department, said that the disclosure of information would
cause "serious and lasting damage to the US-UK intelligence-sharing
relationship and thus the national security of the UK, and the
aggressive and unprecedented intervention in the apparently
functioning adjudicatory processes of a longtime ally of the UK, in
contravention of well-established principles of international
Counsel for Mohamed, Ben Jaffey, read out the email to Lord Justice
Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones. He told the court that the US
authorities had informed them that 44 documents would be made
available to the "convening authoritity" in the US which will decide
on Mohamed's prosecution but not to his legal representatives, Lt-
Col Yvonne Bradley, an Air Force reservist from Pennsylvania, and
Clive Stafford-Smith of Reprieve, although both had been security-
cleared in the US.
Jaffey told a packed court that there was "no movement on the
central question - where was Mr Mohamed between 2002 and 2004." He
said that the offer to make the 44 documents available to convening
authority was "consirably lacking in substance".
Tim Eicke, for the government, said that the US authorities had made
concessions by offering to make the documents available to the
convening authority. He added that it was clear that, in doing so,
they had acted "in good faith".
After hearing from both sides in open court, the judges retired to
chambers to hear further arguments in private. No decision was made
last night but a ruling is expected on Friday.
Mohamed, a UK resident, was initially held in Pakistan in 2002 and
was later secretly rendered to Morocco, where he claimed that he was
tortured and had his penis lacerated while further threats were
made. He was then flown by the US authorities to Afghanistan, where
he claims he was subjected to further ill-treatment and
interrogation, at the end of which he said that he would have said
anything to avoid further punishment.
In September 2004, he was taken to Guantánamo Bay, where he is still
held. He claims that all his confessions were a result of the
torture. He faces the death penalty if convicted.
Last week, in the initial hearing of the case, the high court found
that MI5 had participated in the unlawful interrogation of Mohamed
emerged that one MI5 officer was so concerned about incriminating
himself that he initially declined to answer questions from the
judges even in private. Although the judges said that "no adverse
conclusions" should be drawn by the plea against self-incrimination,
it was disclosed that the officer, Witness B, was questioned about
alleged war crimes, including torture, under the international
criminal court act.
David Miliband, the foreign secretary, has provided the US with
documents about the case. Miliband has declined to release further
evidence about the case on grounds of national security, arguing
that disclosure would harm Britain's intelligence relationship with
NOTE: This article is backstory for yesterday's article,
"British Gitmo Detainee Wins Documents" http://groups.yahoo.com/group/wvns/message/9517
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