Guantanamo Britons win court victory



By Kim Sengupta 
Published: 17 February 2006 

http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/legal/article345930.ece

Three British residents held in Guantanamo Bay have
won a legal battle which could lead to the Government
demanding that they are freed by the US. 

They were granted leave to seek a court order by a
High Court judge with the comment that the United
States' view of what constitutes torture "is not the
same as ours and doesn't appear to coincide with that
of most civilised countries."

The legal decision came on the same day that a United
Nations report, backed by the European Parliament and
human rights organisations asked for the Guantanamo
Bay camp to be shut.

The US rejected the call. The White House spokesman
Scott McClellan said: "These are dangerous statements
we are talking about there. We know al-Qa'ida
terrorists are trying to disseminate false allegations
[about torture]."

In London, Bisher al-Rawi, Jamil al-Banna and Omar
Deghayes were granted permission by Mr Justice Collins
to ask the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, and the Home
Secretary, Charles Clarke, to petition US authorities
for their release. The case is expected to be heard
next month.

The judge said allegations of torture on prisoners at
Guantanamo meant they had the right to present a case,
saying the Government was under an obligation to act
on their behalf.

Nine British nationals who had been detained there
have been flown back to the UK and released without
charge. As British residents, lawyers for the three
detainees argued, they should receive the same degree
of protection under British law.

Rabinder Singh QC, for the men and their families,
told the judge the case arose out of what had been
described by a law lord as the "utter lawlessness at
Guantanamo Bay", where prisoners were being detained
indefinitely without trial.

The three detainees were long-term residents of the
United Kingdom. Mr al-Rawi, 37, an Iraqi national who
had lived in Britain since 1985, and his Jordanian
business partner Mr al-Banna, who was granted refugee
status in 2000, were detained three years ago in
Gambia. They were alleged to have been associated with
al-Qai'da through their connection with the radical
cleric Abu Qatada.

Chris Mullin, a former Foreign Office minister, has
said they were seized by CIA agents after a tip-off
from British intelligence.

Mr Singh told the court that Mr al-Rawi's contact with
Qatada was "expressly approved and encouraged by
British intelligence" to whom he supplied information
about the cleric.

Intelligence operatives assured Mr al-Rawi that they
would intervene and assist him if he faced
difficulties, said counsel. However, the Government
was unwilling to make material available to him when a
hearing on his case was held at Guantanamo Bay.

Mr al-Banna was accused to have been in possession of
"a homemade electronic device" at the time of his
arrest. The device, the court was told, was in fact a
battery charger bought from Argos and cleared by the
British authorities before he went to Gambia.

Mr Deghayes was detained in Pakistan after his name
was said to be on the FBI's "most wanted" list. But
the photograph in his file was of a "totally different
individual", said Mr Singh. Mr Deghayes had been
rendered virtually blind in one eye by the use of
pepper spray and the gouging of his eye during his
detention, yet was still being constantly subjected to
high light levels.

The Government's counsel, Philip Sales, said Mr Starw
had already decided to reconsider Mr al-Rawi's case
because of its particular circumstances. But he argued
that permission should not be granted in the other
cases as the detainees had no British nationality.

Gareth Peirce, solicitor for the three men, said:
"After so many years of such bitter disappointment,
this is the first ray of light that we have had."

In Washington, the Tory spokesman on foreign affairs,
William Hague, warned the White House that America and
its allies faced a "critical erosion" of moral
authority around the world. Mr Hague said a loss of
international goodwill could prove as costly as a
military defeat. 






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