The US has agreed to let British officials visit a Guantanamo Bay detainee whose case has sparked protests and prepare for his return, Britain said on Wednesday.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Britain wants the return of Binyam Mohamed “as soon as possible,” noting US President Barack Obama last month ordered a review of the cases of all those detained at the US detention camp.
“Following our representations, the US administration have now agreed that Mr Mohamed’s case should be treated as a priority in this process. We continue to work with the US to achieve a swift resolution,” Miliband said.
Mohamed, an Egyptian-born former British resident, was arrested in Pakistan in 2002 before being taken to Morocco and Afghanistan, and then on to Guantanamo Bay.
He was suspected of attending an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan and of plotting to build a radioactive “dirty” bomb, but he has never been charged.
Washington agreed on Tuesday that Foreign Office officials should visit Mohamed “as soon as possible,” Miliband said. “The visit will help us make preparations for his return ... should the review confirm a decision to release him.”
He said the team would include a doctor from London’s Metropolitan Police force, “who would take part in any return, so that he may assess Mohamed’s condition himself and report back.”
“We are working as fast and hard as we can to secure Mr Mohamed’s release from Guantanamo and return to the UK. We want him to be released as soon as possible,” Miliband said.
Supporters of Mohamed stepped up their fight on Wednesday to secure his release in a case that threatens to embarrass the new US administration.
His US military lawyer Yvonne Bradley said Mohamed went on a hunger strike on Feb. 5 to protest his detention without charge and is being force-fed through a tube.
Mohamed, 29, was “nothing but skin and bones,” Bradley said, when she visited him two weeks ago at the US military detention center in Cuba where he has been held since 2004.
“Mr Mohamed will leave Guantanamo Bay two ways if people don’t act,” she told a press conference in London. “Either insane, because that is slowly what’s happening to him, or in a coffin, because his condition is declining.”
Meanwhile, Canada’s three opposition parties are urging Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and US President Barack Obama to begin talks next week on the return of the last Western detainee at Guantanamo Bay.
Obama will visit Ottawa next Thursday — his first foreign trip as president.
Omar Khadr, a Toronto native, was 15 when he was accused of killing a US soldier with a grenade during a 2002 battle in Afghanistan. He is one of the youngest people ever charged with war crimes.
Harper’s Conservative government has steadfastly refused to intervene with Washington. Harper said recently he did not believe Khadr was a child soldier.
But his government has come under increasing pressure to bring him home.
Khadr is now 22 and his lawyer said he would be willing to face prosecution in Canada.
“If he is to face charges, those charges should be considered in Canada under Canadian law,” opposition Liberal lawmaker Bob Rae said on Wednesday.