Freed Detainee in U.K. Tells of Abuse by U.S.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
LONDON, Feb. 23 -- A former British resident released after seven years in detention, more than four of them at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, arrived back in London on Monday and issued a statement alleging that the United States government had subjected him to years of "medieval" torture.
"It is still difficult for me to believe that I was abducted, hauled from one country to the next, and tortured in medieval ways -- all orchestrated by the United States government," Binyam Mohamed said in the statement released by his attorneys at a London news conference.
Mohamed, 30, the first Guantanamo detainee released during the Obama administration, has become a symbol of international anger at the anti-terrorism practices of the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
His arrival at a Royal Air Force base near London on Monday afternoon ended what his attorneys have described as a seven-year odyssey of torture, "rendition" by U.S. authorities to secret prisons in Morocco and Afghanistan, and legal limbo in a system where he was held without charge for much of his detention.
"He is a victim who has suffered more than any human being should ever suffer," said his attorney, Clive Stafford Smith, who visited Mohamed half a dozen times at Guantanamo.
U.S. officials charged Mohamed initially with plotting to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb" in the United States and later with conspiring with members of al-Qaeda to murder and commit terrorism. All the charges were eventually dropped.
The government of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown had been petitioning the U.S. government for Mohamed's return since August 2007.
British and European officials have been harshly critical of U.S. treatment of terrorism suspects at Guantanamo, although few European governments have expressed willingness to take any of the detainees as the Obama administration works to close the controversial facility.
"We very much welcome President Obama's commitment to close Guantanamo Bay, and I see today's return of Binyam Mohamed as the first step towards that shared goal," British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Monday.
In a statement, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who traveled to Guantanamo on Monday, said, "The friendship and assistance of the international community is vitally important as we work to close Guantanamo, and we greatly appreciate the efforts of the British government to work with us on the transfer" of Mohamed.
Holder was scheduled to receive briefings from military officials about the case histories of the approximately 245 inmates who remain at Guantanamo as well as the charges pending against some of them before military commissions were suspended. He was also expected to tour the facilities, including the center where trials are held. In one of his first actions upon taking office last month, President Obama issued an executive order directing officials to close the prison within one year.
Mohamed, a native of Ethiopia who immigrated to Britain in 1994, was arrested in Pakistan in April 2002 and turned over to U.S. authorities a few months later. American officials accused him of traveling to Afghanistan to fight with the Taliban, which he has denied.