Facing the Music: CIA and British Agents May Face Prosecution for Allegations of Torture

Remember Binyam Mohamed? Senior CIA officers could be put on trial in Britain, after it emerged this week that the British Attorney General is investigating allegations of his torture.

To refresh you, Mohamed’s case was documented in HRF’s report Tortured Justice (pp.23-24). An Ethiopian-born former British resident, he was reportedly arrested in Pakistan in April 2002 and transferred to Guantánamo in September 2004, where he remains.

Mohamed maintains that after his arrest in 2002 he was rendered to Morocco, and then transferred to CIA custody in Afghanistan. His attorneys argue that the government’s allegations linking him to a “dirty bomb” plot in the United States are based on confessions their client made after his detention and torture in Morocco, where, they say, he was slashed with a razor and beaten. In response to the torture, Mohamed says he attempted to tell his interrogators what he thought they wanted to hear, falsely confessing to some of their accusations.

But now, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan has ordered the Justice Department to turn over documents to Mohamed’s attorneys detailing their client’s treatment while in detention overseas. These documents may help prove or disprove Mohamed’s claims that he falsely confessed only after being tortured at the direction of U.S. officials.

On October 21, 2008, shortly before the Justice Department was required to turn over exculpatory evidence to the defense, the Pentagon withdrew charges linking Mr. Mohamed to the “dirty bomb” plot. “That raises serious questions in this court’s mind about whether those allegations were ever true,” said Judge Sullivan. The government said it stood by the allegations but chose to withdraw them in order to expedite the proceedings. “That doesn’t ring true; it rings hollow,” Sullivan responded. “The government has never been concerned with acting expeditiously here.” Read the Washington Post article here.

Earlier this week, the United States turned over potentially exculpatory intelligence documents related to Mohamed that have been the subject of judgments by the British High Court. The U.S. government initially resisted handing them over, releasing only seven documents, but on Wednesday it turned over the 35 remaining ones. British officials also told the High Court this week that the “question of possible criminal wrongdoing” in Mohamed’s case has been referred to the country’s attorney general for investigation into the actions of British agents, and potentially, senior CIA officers.

Last night, Mr. Mohamed’s lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, said: “This is a welcome recognition that the CIA cannot just go rendering British residents to secret torture chambers without consequences, and British agents cannot take part in U.S. crimes without facing the music. Reprieve will be making submissions to the Attorney General to ensure those involved, from the U.S., Pakistan, Morocco, Britain, are held responsible.” Reprieve is an organization, founded by Smith, that represents prisoners facing execution at the hands of the state in the conventional criminal justice system, or those subject to imprisonment outside the reach of the law in the ‘war on terror.’

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Published on October 31, 2008

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