Lawyer Condemns 'Lies' Over Guantanamo Detainees' Release

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The Independent/UK

Lawyer Condemns 'Lies' Over Guantanamo Detainees' Release

by
Nicola Boden

The lawyer for three British residents arrested hours after returning to the UK from the US Guantanamo Bay detention centre today condemned the Government for "lying" about their release.1220 06

Clive Stafford Smith, who is acting for all three men, described the Government's actions since they returned to British soil as " reprehensible".

Omar Deghayes, 38, Abdennour Samuer, 34, and Jamil el-Banna, 45, were all released from the controversial camp in Cuba yesterday after years of being held without charge or trial.

They arrived back in the UK on board a charter jet last night but both Mr Deghayes and Mr Samuer were arrested immediately, and Mr el-Banna also taken into custody early this morning.

Mr Stafford Smith said: "These guys have been kicked so many times. They have been tortured. To do this when there are so close to home and their families, I think, is reprehensible.

"It would have been fine if that was what they (the Government) had told us was going to happen. They knew it was going to happen. I have no problem with them questioning my clients but they lied."

He added: "Jamil el-Banna was told by an official yesterday that he would be at home with his children for the Festival of Eid.

"Five children are sitting in that house waiting, one of whom has never seen their father. It is absolutely outrageous."

Mr Stafford Smith said Mr el-Banna and Mr Deghayes were both due in court later today, but that Mr Samuer would be released at some point during the day.

Both Mr el-Banna and Mr Deghayes were due to appear at City of Westminster Magistrates' Court in central London, where protesters against their detention were expected.

Mr el-Banna's son Anas, 11, and former Guantanamo detainees including Moazzem Begg and Martin Mubanga will be among those at the demonstration, demanding the men's immediate release.

Mr el-Banna was detained under port and border controls after the flight landed at Luton last night.

He was arrested this morning after being taken for questioning at a police station in Bedfordshire.

Scotland Yard said its Extradition Unit had arrested a 45-year-old man on a European Arrest Warrant alleging terrorist-related offences, issued on behalf of the Spanish authorities.

The two other men were arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000 and taken to Paddington Green police station in London for questioning.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said the two men were arrested on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.

He said: "Police are conducting investigations into the cases of each man on an individual basis.

"Their inquiries are being carried out, as they must be, strictly in accordance with UK law."

Mr el-Banna could now face lengthy court hearings and a possible trial in Spain if the extradition goes ahead, but Mr Stafford Smith has vowed to fight any such request.

Fellow lawyers and campaigners have also condemned the arrests of the detainees on their return to Britain.

Respected human rights lawyer, Gareth Peirce, who represents some of the former detainees, said: "For five years Britain has denied that the US achieved the extraordinary rendition, torture and unlawful detention of Jamil el-Banna with its assistance and encouragement, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

"Now, on arrival in the country that is his home, Jamil el-Banna - exonerated entirely by the Americans - is told that the UK is now actively assisting another government to snatch him once again without even the chance of seeing his wife and children - this time through the device of a fast track extradition request from Spain.

"How unbelievable that 1,000 hours of interrogation in Guantanamo managed to overlook the claims made by the Spanish and how unbelievable that for five years the Spanish overlooked his presence in Guantanamo and failed to achieve his extradition from the USA.

"Enough is enough. These men must be immediately released."

A spokesman for the former Guantanamo detainees said: "We are shocked that after the horrific ordeal suffered by these men in Guantanamo, once again they are facing further persecution.

"It is particularly sad that at this time of year, when we gather with our families, these innocent men, who should be at home with their wives and young children, after spending five years in a illegal prison camp, will face the possibility of spending another Christmas behind bars.

"They are innocent and should be released immediately."

Unlike nine other men earlier sent back to the UK from the camp, the three are not full British citizens but the Government had been under pressure to demand their return.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband announced in August that the UK had formally requested the release of a total of five British residents held at the camp.

In addition to the three men now back in Britain, this included Shaker Aamer - who is said to have requested to go to Saudi Arabia - and Binyam Mohammed, who remains at Guantanamo.

Another British resident, Bisher al-Rawi, was sent back earlier this year.

Mr el-Banna, a Palestinian UK resident, was picked up in November 2002 while on a business trip to Gambia alongside Mr al-Rawi.

The pair are believed to have been taken first to Afghanistan under a process of rendition before arriving at Guantanamo.

Mr Deghayes is said to have left Libya in 1986 after his father, a trade unionist, was killed.

He settled at Saltdean near Brighton as a refugee but later travelled widely, including to Afghanistan where he lived under the Taliban - attempting to export organic fruit, according to supporters.

He was arrested in Pakistan after leaving Afghanistan because of the US-led bombing after September 11.

Mr Samuer is said to be an Algerian army deserter who fled to the UK in 1999 and lived in Harrow after being granted asylum.

But he left for Afghanistan and was arrested on the border with Pakistan after the US-led airstrikes.

© 2007 The Independent

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