Court Says US Asked Detainee to Drop Torture Claim

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TRUTHOUT– US authorities asked a Guantanamo Bay detainee to drop allegations of torture and agree not to speak publicly about his ordeal in exchange for his freedom, according to British court documents.

A ruling by two British High Court judges, issued in October but released only on Monday, said the U.S. offered former detainee Binyam Mohamed a plea bargain last year – six years after he was first detained as an enemy combatant.

It was the first time details of the plea bargain offer were made public. The ruling said U.S. military prosecutors also asked that Mohamed plead guilty to two charges, accept a three-year sentence and agree to testify against other suspected terrorists.

Mohamed, an Ethiopian who moved to Britain as a teenager, was arrested in Pakistan in 2002. He claims he was tortured both there and in Morocco, before he was transferred to Guantanamo in 2004.

He was freed in February after months of negotiation between the U.S. and Britain. All charges against him were dropped last year. Mohamed refused to agree to any deal that prevented him from discussing his treatment, Lord Justice John Thomas and Mr. Justice David Lloyd Jones said in the ruling.

“He wanted it to be made clear to the world what had happened and how he has been treated by the United States government since April 2002,” Thomas said in the ruling.

The British judges had ordered that their written ruling be withheld from the public until after Mohamed was released. The judges considered the plea bargain issue during an appeal to the High Court by Mohamed’s lawyers demanding the British government release documents they claim would prove he was tortured.

Issuing a judgment on the case in February, Thomas said there was evidence to show Mohamed was tortured, but that the documents could not be made public because of the British government’s national security concerns.

He said Britain’s government had said releasing the documents could undermine intelligence-sharing with the United States. Mohamed claims British intelligence officers supplied questions to his interrogators and were complicit in his torture – a claim Prime Minister Gordon Brown has rejected.

In investigating Mohamed’s claims, the British court reviewed the draft plea bargain and correspondence between military prosecutors and Mohamed’s lawyers. The ruling quoted testimony from Mohamed’s lawyer about the offer.

“Mr. Mohamed must sign a statement saying he has not been tortured, which would be false. And he must agree not to make any public statement about what he has been through,” Clive Stafford Smith told the court in October, according to the ruling.

The ruling also quotes then-U.S. military prosecutor Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld as saying Mohamed would be given a date for his release if he agreed to the terms.

Vandeveld – who has since quit his post – had said Mohamed would need to plead guilty to two charges in exchange for a three-year sentence and to testify against other suspects, according to the court documents.

The ruling discloses that, had Mohamed agreed to the plea bargain, the British government told the U.S. it would not allow him to serve the three-year sentence in a UK jail.

Since February, Mohamed has given interviews to the BBC and a British newspaper.

Written by David Stringer / All republished content that appears on Truthout has been obtained by permission or license.

© AP, 2009

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