- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 24, 2009


A Guantanamo detainee who claims he was tortured at a covert CIA site in Morocco returned to Britain a free man Monday after nearly seven years in U.S. captivity - the first inmate from the U.S. prison camp freed since President Obama took office.

Binyam Mohammed flew to a British military base and was released after being interviewed for four hours by police and immigration officials. He had to fill out new paperwork for residency, since his permit expired in 2004.

Mr. Mohammed’s claims of torture, abuse and extraordinary rendition are at the heart of several lawsuits. Lawyers on both sides of the Atlantic are suing for secret documents they say prove the United States sent Mr. Mohammed to Morocco and that Britain knew of the mistreatment - a violation under the 1994 U.N. Convention Against Torture.

“I have been through an experience that I never thought to encounter in my darkest nightmares,” Mr. Mohammed said in a statement released by his attorneys. “Before this ordeal, ‘torture’ was an abstract word to me. … It is still difficult for me to believe that I was abducted, hauled from one country to the next, and tortured in medieval ways, all orchestrated by the United States government.”

He said he was neither “physically nor mentally capable of facing the media.”

Mr. Mohammed’s case could have far-reaching legal implications for the Obama administration and Britain, America’s closest partner during the war on terrorism.

U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. toured the Guantanamo detention center in Cuba on Monday as the Obama administration weighs what is needed to shut the facility down.

“The friendship and assistance of the international community is vitally important as we work to close Guantanamo, and we greatly appreciate the efforts of the British government to work with us on the transfer of Binyam Mohammed,” Mr. Holder said in a statement.

A Pentagon review released Monday urged authorities at Guantanamo to ease the isolation of inmates, Reuters reported. The review, led by Vice Adm. Patrick Walsh at the request of President Obama, said the prison currently complies with the Geneva conventions but that more social interaction and mental stimulation for detainees would make for more humane treatment.

Britain’s attorney general has opened an investigation into whether there was criminal wrongdoing on the part of Britain or a British security agent from MI5 who interrogated Mr. Mohammed in Pakistan, where he was arrested in 2002.

Two senior British judges, meanwhile, have reopened a case into whether 42 secret U.S. intelligence documents shared with Britain should be made public.

Several other lawsuits are under way in the United States against a Boeing subsidiary that purportedly supplied planes for rendition flights to Morocco and for the disclosure of Bush-era legal memos on renditions and interrogation tactics.

The United States has refused to account for the 18 months Mr. Mohammed says he was in Morocco.

The 30-year-old Ethiopian refugee has few remaining links to Britain. His brother and sister live in the United States. His parents are said to be back in Ethiopia. And his British residency that he obtained when he was teenager has since expired.

Two other former British residents remain in Guantanamo: Saudi-born Shaker Aamer, 37, and Algerian Ahmed Belbacha, 39.

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