British resident Binyam Mohamed has been released from Guantanamo Bay, and returns to the UK after seven years of imprisonment, rendition and torture.

January 31, 2009

Image of Binyam Mohammed

Reprieve is delighted to welcome Binyam Mohamed home.

We are relieved that his seven-year ordeal is finally over and hope that he will now be offered every support in rebuilding his life in Britain.

Binyam Mohamed’s notorious ordeal began in Pakistan in 2002, where he was arrested on a visa charge and turned over to the US authorities.

With the support of British agents, the CIA rendered him to Morocco where he was held in a secret prison and tortured over a period of 18 months. During this period Binyam’s chest and penis were repeatedly slashed with a razorblade.

He was later transferred to Kabul’s ‘Dark Prison’ and the Bagram Airbase, where he was subjected to more torture techniques including being hung from the ceiling and blasted with loud music 24 hours a day.

He was finally sent to Guantanamo Bay military prison in September 2004, where he remained incarcerated until today. Binyam’s increasing desperation to return to Britain has resulted in multiple hunger strikes and we have been concerned for his health. We are very happy to welcome him home.

Reprieve currently represents 30 prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and is investigating secret prisons across the world, with the aim of holding the US government and military to account.

Background: Binyam Mohamed

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, stripping him naked and cutting him with a scalpel on his chest and penis. Despite this, Binyam said that his lowest point came when his interrogators asked him questions about his life in London, which he realized 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, where he remains.

Trial by kangaroo court

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.

Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve’s Director, said:

“I visited Binyam in Guantanamo just a week ago and he is in a very bad state. Surely the least the British government can do is insist that no British resident be charged in a kangaroo court based on evidence tortured out of him with a razor blade. If Binyam’s trial by military commission proceeds, all it will produce is evidence not of terrorism, but of torture, which will embarrass both the British and the American governments.”

A judicial review of Binyam’s case took place in the high court at the end of July 2008. It ruled that British involvement in Mohamed’s illegal detention in Pakistan, and the subsequent sharing of intelligence between the US and the UK, while Mohamed was being held incommunicado in an unknown location, “went far beyond that of a bystander or witness to the alleged wrongdoing.”

The courts are now considering whether to force the UK government to release documents which may provide evidence of complicity in Binyam’s rendering and torture.

-ENDS-

Reprieve is a legal action charity, founded by Clive Stafford Smith in 1999. Reprieve uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. We investigate, litigate and educate. Working on the frontline, we provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves, promoting the rule of law around the world, and securing each person’s right to a fair trial. In doing so, we save lives.

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