Govt ‘misled’ high court in torture case

By Laura Miller

Binyam Mohamed’s lawyers will fight to re-open his case on the grounds that the UK government misled the highest court in the land when giving evidence.

Foreign secretary David Miliband yesterday admitted the British government had failed to approach the new US administration over disclosure of information relating to the alleged torture of Mr Mohamed, following his extraordinary rendition to sites in Pakistan and Morocco.

“The government’s opposition to disclosure of this information (which the court considered could not possibly be described as ‘highly sensitive classified US intelligence’) seems to have changed,” said Richard Stein, partner at Leigh Day & Co, the firm representing Mr Mohamed.

Mr Stein argued the change of line at the Foreign Office now means the high court ruled not to disclose evidence in his client’s case without hearing the full facts: “Now it is. because of a mutual understanding about how intelligence material is treated. that is a substantial difference.”

Mr Miliband conceded the new regime had not actually been approached to reconsider the release of information surrounding Mr Mohamed’s case, and stated that no threat had ever been made by the US.

The foreign secretary’s admission undermines the whole basis of the court’s reluctant decision to exclude evidence, and reveals that the current judgement in Mohamed v. Secretary of State relies on ‘misleading evidence’ provided by the UK government, according to the law firm.

“It seems unfair for the British government to pretend that Obama has ratified the retrograde policies of Bush without even asking him,” said Clive Stafford Smith, director of Reprieve, who is acting jointly with Leigh Day & Co.

Leigh Day & Co yesterday applied to the court for Mr Mohamed asking that the judgment is reopened and the case reconsidered.

On Wednesday court documents alleged the UK government was complicit in the torture of Binyam Mohamed, who has been at Guantanamo Bay for the last five years.

According to two high court judges, the government agreed not to disclose Mr Mohamed’s torture after the United States threatened to withdraw intelligence cooperation.

The threats were made during the height of the Bush administration’s war on terror, but it had been unclear whether they had been repeated since the inauguration of Barack Obama.

Counsel for the Foreign Office told the court that the threat to end the bilateral intelligence relationship was still present under President Obama, but Gordon Brown said he was not aware of any such arrangement.

In a statement to the Commons yesterday, the foreign secretary threw doubt on the veracity, or at the very least the wording, of those claims, saying Washington had not threatened to break off intelligence cooperation.

Campaigners are now calling for a full inquiry into the handling of Mr Mohamed’s case.