Guantanamo detainee recuperating in Britain

25th February 2009, Comments 0 comments

The transfer out of Guantanamo was the first under American President Barack Obama, who ordered the closure of the prison two days after taking office.

London -- A man detained at Guantanamo Bay is spending his first full day of freedom in more than six years recuperating in the British countryside Tuesday, his lawyers said.

Binyam Mohamed -- who was born in Ethiopia but held British residency at the time of his arrest -- flew back into London on Monday, alleging he had been "tortured in medieval ways."

The transfer out of Guantanamo was the first under US President Barack Obama, who ordered the closure of the "war on terror" prison on Cuba two days after taking office on January 20.

Accompanied by his sister Zuhra and his lawyers, Mohamed is resting at a country house, having been told by British police officers that he was free to go.

"He's collecting himself a bit, decompressing and recuperating," said Clare Algar, executive director of his representation, Reprieve. "He's not in great shape physically because of the hunger strike and general malnutrition. He's just gathering himself. He's getting his head round not being in Guantanamo any more and being in the English countryside rather than in Cuba."

His lawyers said he had a tearful reunion with his sister and was hoping to re-establish a life for himself in Britain.

Mohamed, 30, returned in a small plane to RAF Northolt airbase in northwest London, accompanied by officials.

He was detained by police under anti-terror laws and questioned for nearly five hours before being freed and told he would face no further action.

His release came as a review of conditions at the detention camp by the US Department of Defense called for easing the isolation of some inmates and allowing them more social contact and recreation.

In a statement released through his lawyers, Mohamed alleged that British officials had "allied themselves with my abusers."

He claims, amongst other alleged abuses, that his genitals were slashed with a scalpel.

"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," he said.

He alleged that British officials had questioned him in Pakistan and that this evidence was subsequently used by "the people who were torturing me."

Mohamed faces an uncertain future while his immigration and security status is established. It is possible he will be deported to Ethiopia.

He was arrested in Pakistan in 2002 before being taken to Morocco and Afghanistan and then on to Guantanamo Bay, where he spent more than four years.

He was suspected of attending an Al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan and of plotting to build a radioactive "dirty bomb" but was never charged.

The British Foreign Office has stressed that his return does not imply he will be allowed to remain in Britain. He has been granted temporary admission while immigration officials sort out his status.

"We have no reason to suppose that his residency will be turned down," said Algar. "Given the government's part in Binyam's torture, it would be pretty surprising if they turned down his application for residency, given that that residency lapsed while he was in Guantanamo Bay."

British newspapers expressed alarm at Mohamed's allegations, but said the former detainee had questions to answer himself.

"Whatever his reasons for travelling to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Mr. Mohamed has been treated outrageously," The Times wrote. But, it added, "If he gives any cause for alarm, the government should lose no time in returning him to Ethiopia."

All nine British nationals held in Guantanamo were released in 2004 and 2005. Of the six British residents, four were released in 2007.

A Foreign Office spokesman said London had requested the release of the last British resident in Guantanamo, Shaker Aamer, "but the US government has so far declined to agree on his return to the UK."

Robin Millard/AFP/Expatica

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