Fears raised for health of Britons released from Guantanamo Bay

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The Independent Online

There was growing concern last night for the health of four Britons being questioned by anti-terrorist police after their release from Guantanamo Bay on Tuesday.

Lawyers for the men - Moazzam Begg, Feroz Abbasi, Richard Belmar and Martin Mubanga - said their continued detention after three years of imprisonment without trial was a breach of their human rights. At least two of the men declined to meet their families after the Metropolitan Police insisted that its officers would be present during what relatives knew would be a very stressful and emotional reunion.

Last night it was rumoured that the four would be released by the end of today. They are being held at Paddington Green police station in West London.

Moazzam Begg's father, Azmat, said that although he had not yet seen his son he had been told that he was "not all that well". He added: "He is irritated and not very happy. He is demoralised by Guantanamo Bay, feeble and very thin."

The detainee's solicitor Gareth Peirce, who did spend time with him yesterday, explained that he was obviously marked by three years of ill-treatment and torture.

Louise Christian, the solicitor for Mr Abbasi and Mr Mubanga, said she was "very worried" about the men's health, particularly Mr Abbasi. "He has an air of unreality about him. He doesn't know where he is. Like all victims of torture he's finding it difficult to talk about it."

She explained that he was struggling to adjust to life outside the harsh conditions at Guantanamo. Ms Christian said: "He told me that when they asked him if he wanted a hot drink he said no, he just wanted a glass of water.

"He was used to the situation where in Guantanamo when he asked for something he would be abused."

The lawyer read out a statement to police during Mr Abbasi's questioning warning them that his detention was in breach of Article 3 of the Human Rights Act and his interrogation was an abuse of process.

Asked whether the families of the four men would be seeing them she said they had been offered the chance to visit but there would be a police officer present at all times so they turned it down. She said: "They want to be reunited with their family members in private."

Ms Peirce emerged from the police station yesterday afternoon and said: "They are playing with these men. It is a silly political exercise for show."

Asked how Mr Begg was, she said: "Better than you would expect after three years of torture.

"He's waited three years to see his father in dignified, free conditions and that is how he wants to see him."

Massoud Shadjareh, of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, added to criticism of the men's incarceration: "After three years of torture and questioning, even the Americans have concluded they are innocent and our security forces also had access to question them over there. What sort of homecoming is this? They are innocent people."

But the Met's deputy assistant commissioner Peter Clarke, who is head of the Anti-Terrorist Branch, said: "We have discussed this case with members of the Muslim community and recognise that there are strong feelings about the return of these men to the UK. But the fact is that we have an absolute duty on behalf of all communities to investigate the circumstances leading to the men's detention."