Sun, Feb 22, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Former UK resident at Guantanamo to be sent back


A former UK resident who alleges he was tortured while in US custody will soon be released from Guantanamo Bay and sent back to Britain, authorities said on Friday.

Binyam Mohamed — accused by US authorities of conspiring to take part in a dirty bomb plot and training in al-Qaeda camps — was kept at the military prison camp even though charges against him were dropped in October.

The announcement of his release had been widely anticipated after US President Barack Obama took office pledging to close Guantanamo and return as many detainees as possible to their home countries.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband has been lobbying for Mohamed’s return to Britain since 2007.

Three other men with ties to Britain — Jordanian Jamil el-Banna, Libyan-born Omar Deghayes and Algerian Abdennour Sameur — were returned from Guantanamo in December 2007.

At the time, the US cited “additional security concerns” for its refusal to return Mohamed and another former UK resident, Saudi-born Shaker Aamer.

Aamer remains at Guantanamo Bay, and British authorities have said they are not actively seeking his return. The US has accused him of having links to al-Qaeda, but he denies the allegations and has not been charged.

It was not immediately clear when exactly Mohamed, 30, would be back in Britain. He had been on hunger strike for more than a month to protest his detention, but Britain’s Foreign Office said a British doctor had examined him and found him medically fit to travel.

US Navy Commander Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman, said that as a matter of policy the military does not comment on transfers from Guantanamo until they are completed.

Mohamed, an Ethiopian refugee who moved to Britain when he was 15, was arrested in Pakistan on a visa violation and turned over to US authorities, human rights group Reprieve said.

Mohamed alleges he was beaten in Pakistan and tortured in Morocco and Afghanistan before being moved to the US facility in Cuba in September 2004. Washington has never publicly acknowledged extraordinary renditions to places such as Morocco and still refuses to say where Mohamed was before he was taken to Guantanamo.

His case caused concern in Britain when it was disclosed that Mohamed had been interviewed by British intelligence before his transfer to Guantanamo.

Mohamed’s lawyer military lawyer, Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Yvonne Bradley, said she was pleased Mohamed’s long detention was coming to an end.

“It’s been a very long time,” Bradley said. “We’re all happy he’s finally being released and we’ve been able to get him back.”

The Foreign Office said Mohamed would be returned to the UK “as soon as the practical arrangements can be made,” but added that did not mean he could stay in the country indefinitely.

Reprieve, the human rights group, said Mohamed’s legal residency in the UK expired because he was prevented from renewing it while being detained.

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