US defence officials are preventing Barack Obama from seeing evidence that a former British resident held in Guantánamo Bay
has been tortured, the prisoner's lawyer said last night, as
campaigners and the Foreign Office prepared for the man's release in as
little as a week.
Clive Stafford Smith, the director of the legal
charity Reprieve, which represents Ethiopian-born Binyam Mohamed, sent
Obama evidence of what he called "truly mediaeval" abuse but
substantial parts were blanked out so the president could not read it.
In the letter to the president [PDF] , Stafford Smith urges him to order the disclosure of the evidence.
Smith tells Obama he should be aware of the "bizarre reality" of the
situation. "You, as commander in chief, are being denied access to
material that would help prove that crimes have been committed by US
personnel. This decision is being made by the very people who you
It is understood US defence officials might have
censored the evidence to protect the president from criminal liability
or political embarrassment.
The letter and its blanked-out
attachment were disclosed as two high court judges yesterday agreed to
reopen the court case in which Mohamed's lawyers, the Guardian and
other media are seeking disclosure of evidence of alleged torture
against him. Mohamed's lawyers are challenging the judges' gagging
order, claiming that David Miliband, the foreign secretary, changed his
In a judgment last week, Lord Justice Thomas and Mr
Justice Lloyd Jones stated repeatedly that Miliband claimed the US had
threatened to stop sharing intelligence with the UK if information
relating to Mohamed's alleged torture was disclosed. Miliband
subsequently denied the US had applied such pressure. The case will be
reopened next month.
After a meeting with Mohamed's US-appointed
military lawyer, Lieutenant Colonel Yvonne Bradley, Miliband said
yesterday that the US had granted permission for Foreign Office
officials to visit Mohamed. The Foreign Office said the officials would
be joined by a Metropolitan police doctor, who would accompany Mohamed
back to the UK if he is released.
Stafford Smith said he believed
this trip was to check Mohamed was fit to fly after the hunger strike
that he has maintained for over a month. He stressed that no date for
his client's release had been fixed, but "I think we're talking about a
week, I sincerely hope so".
Millband said the US administration
had agreed to treat Mohamed's case as "a priority", adding that Britain
was working with Washington for "a swift resolution". Bradley said
later: "We haven't been given any specific date about Mr Mohamed's
Earlier, she told a press conference that Mohamed's treatment "would make waterboarding seem like child's play".
and Stafford Smith yesterday met in private with members of the
intelligence and security committee, the group of MPs and peers facing
mounting criticism in Westminster over claims it failed to effectively
scrutinise the activities of MI5. Stafford Smith said he told the
committee it would have been "absolutely impossible" for it to have
cleared MI5 of involvement in the torture of Mohamed had it seen 42 key
documents in the case - as he has - that Miliband says cannot be
released for reasons of national security.
Bill Delahunt, a senior Democrat congressman and chairman of the House of Representatives subcommittee on human rights
and oversight, said: "We cannot let our governments stonewall ... I
take offence at the idea that secrecy is being maintained in order to
preserve national security." He told the all-party committee on
rendition: "The treatment of detainees has done great harm to the
security of both our nations."
Lieutenant Colonel Nigel Wylde,
who worked in intelligence in Northern Ireland, told the committee:
"The use of torture is utterly counterproductive because it breeds
hatred against us and encourages people to become extremists."
Davies, a former shadow home secretary, said torture was wrong morally
and legally, ineffective and undermined the safety of British people.
"Was the government involved, was it a matter of policy or a matter of
freelancing - failure of policy or a failure of control?"
Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, Edward Davey, said:
"Miliband's bad judgment in blocking the courts from publishing this
evidence of torture is being compounded by his refusal to press the new
Obama administration to disclose this evidence freely."