MI5 agent: Torture complicity ‘legal’

By politics.co.uk staff

New allegations of complicity in torture have been levelled against the government amid claims Whitehall told MI5 agents they could question terror suspects they believed had been tortured by foreign security services.

Binyam Mohamed – the last British resident at Guantanamo Bay – is among a group of UK citizens and residents who claim to have been tortured in Pakistan by counterterrorism agents.

The allegations concern whether a formal policy was developed by lawyers and government officials in London which led to Britons being tortured by Pakistani authorities and questioned by UK security forces.

An MI5 agent, who can only be identified as Witness B, told the high court last year under cross-examination that he had questioned Mr Mohamed in Pakistan after his detention despite him being in an “extremely vulnerable position”.

He admitted to Mr Mohamed’s counsel Dinah Rose QC that he did not consider

  • whether Mr Mohamed had been tortured or mistreated
  • why Mr Mohamed had lost weight
  • whether his detention without trial was illegal

Ms Rose QC asked: “Was it your understanding that it was lawful for Mr Mohamed to be transferred to the US authorities in this way?”

Witness B replied: “I consider that to be a matter for the security service top management and for government.”

After being asked if the process concerned him, Witness B elaborated: “I was aware that the general question of interviewing detainees had been discussed at length by security service management legal advisers and government, and I acted in this case, as in others, under the strong impression that it was considered to be proper and lawful.”

Confirmation of Witness B’s claims could be found in 42 documents released to Mr Mohamed’s legal team in preparation of his defence before a military tribunal at Guantanamo but are yet to be released to the public domain, despite two high court judges urging the government to do so.

Foreign secretary David Miliband claims that US security services said the publication of the documents would threaten intelligence cooperation between the two countries, although it emerged earlier this week that the Foreign Office had solicited a letter from the US confirming this fact.

The allegations prompted Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Edward Davey to call on Mr Miliband to publically release all documents related to the case.

“The nature of these allegations grows ever more serious by the day,” he said.

“They suggest that complicity in UK co-operation with torture and extraordinary rendition may reach to the highest levels of government.

“Now that it has come to light, the legality of this interrogation policy needs to be challenged and at the very least the intelligence and security committee must have access to all related documents.”

Mr Miliband told MPs last month that the British government did not condone, authorise or cooperate in the use of torture.

Mr Mohamed meanwhile is due to return to Britain soon after UK doctors confirmed he is well enough to fly. He has been on hunger strike for the last five weeks and human rights groups have expressed grave concern over his physical and mental wellbeing.