Binyam Mohamed was seized in Pakistan and handed over to US forces. He was rendered by the CIA to Morocco, where he was held and tortured for 18 months.
Binyam was rendered to Bagram, and then to Guantánamo Bay.
After a long battle with the US authorities, Binyam was finally released back to Britain on Monday 23rd February 2009.
Binyam Mohamed was born in Ethiopia and came to Britain in 1994, where he lived for seven years, sought political asylum and was given leave to remain while his case was resolved.
While travelling in Pakistan, Binyam was arrested on a visa violation and turned over to the US authorities. When they refused to let him go, he asked what crime he had committed, and insisted on having a lawyer if he was going to be interrogated. The FBI told him, ‘The rules have changed. You don’t get a lawyer.’
Binyam refused to speak to them. British agents then confirmed his identity to the US authorities and he was warned that he would be taken to a Middle Eastern country for harsh treatment.
On 21 July 2002, Binyam was rendered to Morocco on a CIA plane. He was held there for 18 months in appalling conditions. To ensure his confession, his Moroccan captors tortured him in medieval ways. Yet in all the extreme violence he endured, Binyam said that his lowest point came when his interrogators asked him questions about his life in London. He knew the information could only have been provided by the British intelligence services, and he realized that he had been betrayed by the country in which he had sought asylum.
Binyam’s ordeal in Morocco continued for about 18 months until January 2004, when he was transferred to the ‘Dark Prison’ near Kabul, Afghanistan, a secret prison run by the CIA, which resembled a medieval dungeon with the addition of extremely loud 24-hour music and noise.
Speaking of his time in the ‘Dark Prison’, Binyam said:
“It was pitch black, no lights on in the rooms for most of the time. They hung me up for two days. My legs had swollen. My wrists and hands had gone numb. There was loud music, Slim Shady [by Eminem] and Dr. Dre for 20 days. Then they changed the sounds to horrible ghost laughter and Halloween sounds. At one point, I was chained to the rails for a fortnight. The CIA worked on people, including me, day and night. Plenty lost their minds. I could hear people knocking their heads against the walls and the doors, screaming their heads off.”
From there he was taken to the US military prison at Bagram airbase, and finally, in September 2004, to Guantánamo Bay.
In June 2008, the US Department of Defense put Binyam forward for trial by military commission, a novel legal system, conceived in November 2001, which was described by Lord Steyn, a British law lord, as a “kangaroo court.”
In the same month, lawyers at Reprieve, working with colleagues at Leigh Day & Co., sued the British government, demanding that they turn over evidence that could help prove both his innocence and the extent of his torture. The UK Court of Appeal, confirming in part a Judgement of the High Court, ruled in Binyam’s favour. stating that he had been the victim of “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the United States authorities”.
‘I am not asking for vengeance; only that the truth should be made known, so that nobody in the future should have to endure what I have endured.’
After his long battle with the US authorities, Binyam Mohamed was released from Guantánamo Bay, arriving in Britain on the 23rd of February, 2009. He was met by a doctor and his lawyers, Clive Stafford Smith and Gareth Pierce, together with family and friends who took him to a quiet place to recover from his ordeal.
Binyam’s sister Zuhra, who travelled to London to meet him, said:
“I am so glad and so happy, more than words can express. I am so thankful for everything that was done for Binyam to make this day come true.”