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Secret British files reveal US abuse of detainee

A former Guantanamo Bay inmate was shackled and told he would “disappear” if he failed to cooperate with US interrogators, Britain revealed, in a move Washington warned may affect intelligence-sharing.

world Updated: Feb 11, 2010 09:31 IST

A former Guantanamo Bay inmate was shackled and told he would “disappear” if he failed to cooperate with US interrogators, Britain revealed, in a move Washington warned may affect intelligence-sharing.

The details of the “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment of Binyam Mohamed by US authorities were disclosed Wednesday after Britain lost a months-long court battle to halt publication of the once-secret information.

The White House expressed its dismay at the court’s decision to release information that the CIA had passed to Britain, saying it could hamper future intelligence cooperation between London and Washington.

“We’re deeply disappointed with the court’s judgment... because we shared this information in confidence and with certain expectations,” said Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for President Barack Obama.

“As we warned, the court’s judgment will complicate the confidentiality of our intelligence-sharing relationship with (Britain), and it will have to factor into our decision-making going forward,” he added.

The seven-paragraph summary was published after Foreign Secretary David Miliband lost an appeal court bid to prevent senior judges from disclosing it.

Britain had argued that putting the information in the public domain would undermine US willingness to share sensitive information with Britain.

But High Court judges ruled there was “overwhelming” public interest in publishing the material and that the risk to national security was “not a serious one”.

The judges said the content of the summary, which describes Mohamed’s treatment as “cruel, inhuman and degrading”, was already in the public domain following a decision in December by a US court in another case.

The redacted information concerns what the CIA told British intelligence officials about “interviews” with Mohamed in Pakistan in 2002, two years before he was taken to Guantanamo.

The summary released by the court said that “at some stage during that further interview process by the United States authorities, BM had been intentionally subjected to continuous sleep deprivation.”

“It was reported that combined with the sleep deprivation, threats and inducements were made to him. His fears of being removed from United States custody and ‘disappearing´ were played upon,” it said.

The summary adds: “It was reported that the stress brought about by these deliberate tactics was increased by him being shackled in his interviews.”

Miliband said however that Britain had “no information” to corroborate Mohamed’s allegations that he had also been subjected to genital mutilation.

He also disclosed that police were investigating allegations of criminal actions by a British official linked to the case.
Ethiopian-born Mohamed, 31, had come to Britain in 1994 seeking asylum.

He was arrested in Pakistan in 2002 while trying to return to Britain and spent nearly seven years in US custody or in countries taking part in the US-run rendition programme of terror suspects.

He claims that in Morocco in 2002 he was questioned by people using information that could only have come from the British intelligence service.

After a lengthy campaign by his supporters, he became the first prisoner to be released from Guantanamo under the Obama presidency and returned to Britain in February last year.

Miliband said he accepted the court’s judgement, but insisted that Britain’s intelligence-sharing relationship with the US had been at stake in the legal battle, not the content of the summary.

British newspapers Thursday accused the government of seeking to cover up its involvement in the torture of terrorism suspects.

“Rather than confront these disturbing matters, the government has scrambled to conceal them at every stage,” said the Guardian.

The Daily Mail commented: “The attempt by the Foreign Office to suppress evidence that the British security services colluded in the torture of at least one detainee is a stain on our public life.”

Miliband has rebuffed such accusations.
“There is no truth in the suggestion that we are complicit or cooperate in the outsourcing of inhuman treatment,” he told the BBC.