A British resident, once accused of plotting with Al Qaeda to detonate a radiological "dirty bomb," is a free man and is now calling for an investigation into his alleged torture at the behest of the US government.
Binyam Mohamed was released from a cell at the Guantánamo terror prison camp in Cuba early Monday, where he had been held since September 2004. He was flown by private jet to a British military base near London, where he met with his legal team and doctors.
"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," Mr. Mohamed said in a statement released through his lawyers.
Mohamed's freedom comes after years of investigation and legal pressure by the London-based human rights group, Reprieve. It also follows a recent lobbying blitz in Britain by an appointed US military lawyer, Lt. Col. Yvonne Bradley.
How deep was British-U.S. partnership?
Mohamed's arrival in Britain is expected to add urgency to calls for an investigation into the possible knowledge by British intelligence agents of Mohamed's harsh treatment, including allegations of routine beatings, druggings, and cuttings with a scalpel. Some analysts say it may also increase pressure for a US investigation of controversial tactics used in the Bush administration's war on terror.
"I have been through an experience that I never thought to encounter in my darkest nightmares," Mohamed said. "Before this ordeal, 'torture' was an abstract word to me. I could never have imagined that I would be its victim."
He said he was "abducted, hauled from one country to the next, and tortured in medieval ways – all orchestrated by the United States government."
Mohamed is a 30-year-old former Ethiopian refugee who was granted asylum in Britain when he was 15. He has spent the past seven years of his life in a legal black hole that included stops in two Pakistani detention centers, two US military prisons in Afghanistan, the terror prison camp at Guantánamo, and – according to Mohamed and his lawyers – a bloody torture chamber in Morocco.
Claims of false confession under torture
Mohamed's lawyers say he was held for two years in secret detention without charge or access to a lawyer at the request of the US government. They say he was taken to Morocco, where interrogators tortured him until he consistently repeated a confession of involvement in a "dirty-bomb" plot and other alleged Al Qaeda operations.
Lawyers working on Mohamed's behalf stepped up pressure on both the US and British governments in recent months. In Britain, a legal campaign was undertaken to win release of 42 classified British documents related to Mohamed's interrogation and treatment. Meanwhile, in Washington, a federal judge ordered the US government to make a full accounting of the conditions surrounding every statement Mohamed allegedly made to his interrogators.
Last year, after a federal judge ordered the US government to turn over information about Mohamed's interrogations and treatment, charges against him were dropped. The charges originated from a special military commission set up by the Bush administration with stripped-down due-process protections to allow the introduction of evidence from coerced confessions.
Arrested in Pakistan
Mohamed lived in London beginning in 1994. After taking college courses, developing a drug addiction, and eventually becoming a student of Islam, he traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan in the spring of 2001 to experience Muslim societies first-hand and to try to shake his drug habit, according to his lawyers. When war broke out in Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks, Mohamed sought to return to Britain. He was arrested at the Karachi airport trying to use a friend's passport.
While still in Pakistani custody, he was hung from the ceiling for a week with his feet just touching the floor, the lawyers say. After several months in Pakistani custody, he was turned over to US agents, who flew him to Morocco, according to the lawyers.
Interrogations in Morocco were accompanied by repeated scalpel cuts, according to diary entries provided by his lawyers. He was threatened with castration unless he "told the truth." The scalpel interrogation technique was repeated once a month for about a year, Mohamed has told his lawyers.
He says he was routinely beaten and was drugged. The interrogators cuffed his hands so he couldn't remove a set of headphones, then blasted music by Meatloaf and Aerosmith at top volume, over and over, all day and all night. "I hated that," he later told his lawyers.
He also told them: "About once a month they would do other things to me that I just cannot talk about." "I was in agony, crying, trying desperately to suppress myself, but I was screaming," Mohamed wrote about his treatment in Morocco.
What role did Britain play?
In London, controversy is growing around claims that British authorities were aware of the alleged mistreatment in Pakistan and Morocco.
"Many have been complicit in my own horrors over the past seven years," Mohamed said.
"For myself, the very worst moment came when I realized in Morocco that the people who were torturing me were receiving questions and materials from British intelligence," he said. "I had met with British intelligence in Pakistan. I had been open with them. Yet the very people who I had hoped would come to my rescue, I later realized, had allied themselves with my abusers."
The British government has refused to release documents related to Mohamed's treatment, citing a threat from the US government that it would halt intelligence-sharing operations between the two countries if the sensitive information is made public.
Clive Stafford-Smith, director of Reprieve, is urging public release. "You can't learn from history if you don't know what the history is," he said.
"It's disturbing that the British government has thus far declined to put into the public domain evidence of Binyam's torture."
Mohamed is being allowed "temporary admission" to Britain, according to the British government.
He has reportedly agreed to abide by several voluntary security measures including reporting on a regular basis to the police.
His legal team, family, and friends have said that they intend to bring him to a "quiet place" to recover.
However, his return has already sparked a major clamor by sections of the British media trying to locate him. His sister, Zuhra, a US citizen who traveled 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."