Afghan torture claim detainee seeks review


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The Independent Online

An Afghan detainee who says he was subjected to torture after being handed over to the Afghan authorities following capture by British forces today won permission to challenge the legality of his transfer.

Serdar Mohammed, 24, was given leave to seek judicial review by Mr Justice Collins, sitting at the High Court in London.

His lawyers say that, after the transfer, he was tortured into confessing that he was a member of the Taliban by the National Directorate of Security (NDS), the Afghanistan intelligence service, and is now serving a six-year prison sentence.

The judge ruled that the father-of-two had "an arguable case" that should go to a full hearing, but stressed his decision did not mean that the challenge would necessarily succeed.

The judge said that - in part as a result of the case - Defence Secretary Philip Hammond had now stopped all transfers of detainees from British forces to the Afghan authorities "as part of an ongoing review".

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "Where there is enough evidence to support a prosecution through the Afghan courts, UK-held detainees may be passed to Afghan authorities for prosecution.

"The UK works to ensure the wellbeing of all UK-captured detainees we have transferred.

"The UK does not transfer detainees to any facility where there is a real risk at the time of transfer that a detainee will suffer torture or serious mistreatment."

The judge also gave peace campaigner Maya Evans permission to bring a linked legal challenge. Both cases are being brought on legal aid.

The judge rejected Ministry of Defence submissions that the twin challenge was too costly for the public purse and that only one case should have been given the go-ahead.

Lawyers for Serdar Mohammed said he was initially detained by British soldiers in April 2010 and beaten and kicked. He is about to launch a separate civil claim for damages in the UK courts over those allegations.

After being held by the British for two months, he was handed over to the NDS and claims that he suffered beatings with sticks and electric cables.

He says he was also hooded, suspended by one hand and shackled in stress positions for prolonged periods. His counsel Ben Jaffey told the court he signed a confession that he was a member of the Taliban following the ill treatment.

Mr Jaffey said he was sentenced to 16 years in prison, later reduced to six years, "after a trial lasting 15 minutes conducted in a language he did not understand".

He has an appeal against conviction and sentence pending before the Afghanistan Supreme Court.

James Eadie QC, appearing for the Defence Secretary, said Mohammed had been caught in the middle of a firefight by UK forces as he fled along a road where a rocket-propelled grenade launcher (RPG) was found, but denied knowing anything about it.