Binyam Mohamed: I Will Fight for Other Prisoners

Published on
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The Independent/UK

Binyam Mohamed: I Will Fight for Other Prisoners

Former Guantanamo Bay inmate explains the legacy of his incarceration

by
Cahal Milmo

Binyam Mohamed talks for the first time since his release. (Credit: Teri Pengilley)

Binyam Mohamed, the former Guantanamo detainee,
has reversed a decision to stay out of the public eye by signalling his
determination to campaign for justice for prisoners at the American
detention camp and highlight the lifelong effects of torture he
suffered at the hands of his interrogators.

Six
months after emerging as a frail and ghostly figure from the plane
which brought him back to Britain from the US military prison in Cuba,
Mr Mohamed last night used his first public speech since his release to
explain the legacy of his seven years in detention, which he says
included his "extraordinary rendition" to a prison in Morocco where his
penis was repeatedly cut with a scalpel to force him to confess as an
al-Qai'da terrorist.

The 31-year-old who was
born in Ethiopia and came to Britain as a refugee at the age of 16, is
one of 15 one-time terror suspects who have now made allegations that
MI5 and MI6 colluded in their torture abroad. Mr Mohamed is suing the
Government to prove that he was imprisoned and tortured with the full
knowledge of the UK authorities and intelligence services.

Scotland Yard is currently investigating whether
there are grounds for prosecuting any British intelligence officers
involved with the case after it was revealed that MI5 supplied lists of
questions to be put to him while he was being held in Morocco and
elsewhere.

He revealed that he had found it
difficult to re-adjust after life in Guantanamo, where he was
imprisoned between 2004 and February this year.

Speaking
at a fundraising event for Cage Prisoner, a campaign group for Muslim
detainees held in Cuba and elsewhere, he said there was an obligation
to press for the release of the remaining prisoners held without trial:
"Helping people in Guantanamo, or Bagram is an obligation upon us.
Whether from an Islamic or non-Islamic point of view, it is an
obligation. People cannot be held for seven or eight years on grounds
of suspicion alone. That is not enough of a reason."

Mohamed
said he was constantly re-visited by memories of his ordeal, in
particular at the so-called "Dark Prison" - a CIA facility in
Afghanistan where detainees were kept in darkness and bombarded with
loud pop music. For 10 months, Mr Mohammed said he was kept chained in
a room in the prison as an Eminem CD played on a loop. "You have to
live it to explain it. It's very hard. If I enter a room and the light
turns off for some reason, I wonder if I'm back in the dark prison."

After
struggling against drug addiction in London, Mr Mohamed said his Muslim
faith helped him beat his craving for heroin and crack cocaine. At the
suggestion of a fellow mosque member, he travelled to Afghanistan in
2001 to help other refugees and admits attending an Islamist "boot
camp".

He was arrested in Pakistan in April
2002 travelling on a false passport and handed over to US interrogators
who he says turned nasty when he mentioned a website he had seen with
instructions for building a nuclear bomb. The website included
instructions such as refining uranium by whirling it in a bucket above
an individual's head.

What followed, he
insists, was a catalogue of encounters with foreign intelligence agents
in Pakistan and later Morocco while being subjected to tortures that
included being chained to a gate for 22 hours and being cut on his
genitals 20 or 30 times during interrogation sessions over two years.

Last
month, it emerged in a High Court judgment that an MI5 officer visited
Morocco three times during the time Mr Mohamed was being held there.
MI5 insists it was unaware of his rendition to Morocco in 2002.

Upon
his return to Britain, Mohamed gave a number of interviews about his
treatment before removing himself from public view. But he now says the
legacy of his torture and the situation of former US prisoners who are
returned to developing countries without facilities to treat torture
victims had persuaded to take a higher profile.

He
said: "I cannot fit into society. What the world doesn't understand is
that most people love to hear about torture stories. Someone was hanged
here. Blood here, blood there. What remains every time you see a rope,
you always go back to the time when you were hung. That doesn't go
away."

The former detainee is one of several
inmates who have joined the Guantanamo Justice Centre, a not-for-
profit group which was launched this month to help former and current
prisoners find work and secure medical treatment. "From my point of
view," he said, "there's a mess that has been done and someone has to
fix it."

Where are they now? Guantanamo detainees

*Moazzam Begg, 41

A
former law student and the owner of a Birmingham bookshop, Begg was
arrested by the CIA in Pakistan in 2002. He was held for a year in
Afghanistan before being transferred to Guantanamo. Since his release
in 2005, he has been at the forefront on the campaign for the closure
of his former prison and is a prominent human rights activist.

*Jamil el-Banna, 57

A
Jordanian citizen with refugee status in Britain, he was arrested in
Gambia in 2002 and sent to the "dark prison" in Afghanistan before
being transferred to Guantanamo. He was released in December 2007. Upon
his return to Britain, he was detained due to Spanish claims he was an
al-Qai'da member. The proceedings were dropped after a medical report
found he had post-traumatic stress due to torture. He lives in north
London with his five children.

*Bisher Al Rawi, 48

A
former public school boy whose family came to Britain from Iraq to
escape Saddam Hussein's regime, Al Rawi was arrested in Gambia in 2002.
British intelligence claimed he was carrying bomb components, but they
turned out to be a battery charger. Released from Guantanamo in April
2007, he now works for a human rights group and lives in south-west
London.

*Shafiq Rasul, 33

One
of the so-called Tipton Three, Rasul was picked up in Afghanistan in
2001, transferred to Guantanamo and released in 2004. Six months later,
Rasul and two others from the West Midlands launched a $10m lawsuit
against the American government, alleging it authorised the use of
illegal interrogation techniques. The US has claimed they have no right
to sue in American courts.

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