Flashback: Tortured Guantanamo detainee set free | UK agents ‘colluded with torture in Pakistan’ | U.K. resident held at Gitmo alleges Canadian involvement in torture | Senior judges attack US over ‘torture evidence suppression’
David Rose, Daily Mail
April 19, 2009
Government lawyers have been forced to make a humiliating apology to the High Court for concealing 13 crucial intelligence documents about the torture of former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Binyam Mohamed.
Now it has admitted the papers do exist, the Government has handed them over to the court, although their exact contents remain secret.
But it is known that they do show MI5’s complicity in Mohamed’s torture went further than previously suspected — and contain the damaging admission that a senior MI5 officer known as Witness A gave ‘incorrect’ evidence at a hearing last year.
The apology, described by senior lawyers as ‘unprecedented’, last night prompted claims that intelligence agencies have been involved in a cover-up.
The newly unearthed papers will now form part of the Metropolitan Police inquiry into the role of British spies in the torture of terror suspects, which was ordered by Attorney General Baroness Scotland last month.
Mohamed, 31, has previously told The Mail on Sunday how he was captured in Pakistan in April 2002 and tortured on the orders of the CIA.
Later, he became the subject of ‘extraordinary rendition’ to Morocco, where he claims he was subjected to ‘medieval’ torture, before being transferred to the CIA’s ‘dark prison’ in Afghanistan. Finally, after almost five years in Guantanamo Bay, he was freed without charge in February.
Mohamed has always claimed that British intelligence officers were complicit in his treatment. Last year, while he was still a prisoner, his lawyers launched a High Court battle to force the British Government to hand over copies of any papers they had about his treatment.
A total of 42 documents were eventually disclosed and although most of their contents remain secret, the details that have surfaced in public support Mohamed’s version of events — for example, that he was questioned by MI5 agents in Pakistan and that MI5 gave the CIA thick dossiers about his background, together with lists of questions, when he was being tortured in Morocco.
However, the new apology, which comes in a letter from Treasury Solicitor David Mackie to High Court judges Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones, reveals the Government’s previous disclosures were far from complete.
The correspondence, dated April 9, admits to nine previously undisclosed documents. A further four were found last Friday.
Mr Mackie’s letter says: ‘I am writing to inform the Court that nine documents that should have been disclosed as relevant to these proceedings have recently been identified.
‘Their disclosure at this stage is a matter of great regret. We offer our apologies on behalf of all concerned.’
The letter says the documents came to light after Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee asked MI5 detailed questions about Mohamed’s case.
At first, two of the documents were unearthed, prompting Government lawyers to order a further search of files held both by MI5 and MI6.
MI5 had a total of six ‘relevant’ documents that should have been disclosed, and MI6 three.
Damningly, the MI5 files had been already reviewed by Government barristers who handled the case last year — but were not ‘selected for disclosure’.
The letter insists there was ‘no intention to withhold relevant documents’ while the whole affair was due to ‘misunderstandings’.
It adds that a senior barrister, Jonathan Crow QC, who has had no previous involvement in the case, has now been asked to trawl for further documents.
The most explosive admission in the letter is that Witness A gave false evidence to the court last year, when he claimed that MI5 had no further contact with the CIA over Mohamed after February 2003, five months after he arrived in Morocco.
However, Mohamed would be subject to a further 18 months of torture there and in Afghanistan.
The letter says: ‘A sentence in the open witness statement of Witness A, which stated the last interview report received by the Security Service was in February 2003, is incorrect.’
But the letter does not say how much longer MI5 continued to receive CIA reports.
Last Friday, MI5 found the additional four documents. According to a second letter to the court, one of them had not been noticed before because it was filed under a different spelling of Mohamed’s name.
Former Shadow Home Secretary David Davis described the new revelations as ‘frankly astonishing’.
He added that the Government, MI5 and MI6 had ‘misled the court not in some minor way but over the major issue of the torture of Binyam Mohamed that is at the heart of this case.
‘The use of the phrase “selected for disclosure” indicates that some of this was deliberate.
‘Either this was action in bad faith, amounting to a cover-up, or evidence of such unbelievable incompetence that it calls the trust we place in these agencies into question.’
Clive Stafford Smith, one of Mohamed’s lawyers, said he found it astonishing that the failure to disclose such documents could have been due to ‘misunderstandings’.
He added: ‘If MI5 and MI6 can’t find documents when asked, it does concern me. What would happen if the Prime Minister asked them what they knew about some possible terrorist attack?
‘If they find it so difficult, I invite them to come and look at my own filing system — I’ve already amassed 60,000 pages on Binyam’s case, and they’re all indexed and easily accessible.’
The new files will be considered at a special hearing this week, when Mohamed’s lawyers will ask the High Court to publish its own full summary of the 42 previously known documents which are currently heavily edited.
Foreign Secretary David Miliband claims that to publish this would damage Britain’s intelligence-sharing relationship with America.
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