Guantanamo Bay prisoners are freed just a day after their return to Britain

Click to follow

The four remaining British detainees flown home from Guantanamo Bay were released by the Metropolitan police last night. Tarek Dergoul, 26, Asif Iqbal, 22, and Shafiq Rasul, 26, and Rhuhel Ahmed, 22, were released without charge from the high-security Paddington Green police station in west London.

The four remaining British detainees flown home from Guantanamo Bay were released by the Metropolitan police last night. Tarek Dergoul, 26, Asif Iqbal, 22, and Shafiq Rasul, 26, and Rhuhel Ahmed, 22, were released without charge from the high-security Paddington Green police station in west London.

All four had been held under the Terrorism Act since being flown home from the Guantanamo camp on Tuesday. A fifth, Jamal al-Harith, 37, was released almost immediately on arrival after questioning by immigration officers at RAF Northolt. Four other British nationals are still being held at Guantanamo Bay.

Mr Dergoul, a 26-year-old former care worker for the elderly from Bethnal Green, east London is believed to be in a "mentally fragile" state and having difficulty walking after two years in American custody.

The publicist Max Clifford, who says he has been employed to represent Mr Dergoul, said he had been taken to a secret location to meet his family. "Physically he is not in a very good condition. He has been incarcerated for two years and is physically in a bad way. He is mentally fragile but okay," Mr Clifford said.

He said Mr Dergoul, who was captured in the Tora Bora mountains following the US-led coalition's invasion of Afghanistan, had been caught in "the wrong place at the wrong time". He had originally told his family he was flying to Pakistan in 2001 to learn Arabic. He is believed to have been sent to Guantanamo Bay in May 2002.

Mr Dergoul's solicitor, Louise Christian, said her client had complained of being cold in his police cell. She said police had not made proper allowances for his sleep deprivation or provided sufficient blankets to keep him warm after he had been flown home from the Caribbean.

Ms Christian said Mr Dergoul had had one of his hands amputated after he was captured by US forces in Afghanistan. She said police had spent more than an hour conducting DNA tests and taking fingerprints before he was allowed to speak to her.

The three other men held after their return to Britain underwent similar examinations. Gareth Peirce, who represents Mr Iqbal and Mr Rasul, said: "The procedures went on far too long last night, unnecessary and protracted fingerprinting which continued until way after midnight. "It was very clear that they should have been allowed to sleep long before they were and it was very clear that their cells were too cold," he added. "We told the police that they [were] simply compounding the unlawfulness of the last two years."

Ms Christian described their detention as "oppressive" and the laws that had permitted it as "draconian". She said the very basic questioning of her client showed that the police had absolutely no evidence against him.

Mr al-Harith, the first man released, was at a secret location near his family home in Manchester last night. His sister, Sharon Fiddler, told the BBC's Panorama of her family's joy at learning of his release. "I screamed and screamed and screamed down the phone. I was very, very, very, very happy to hear the news we had been waiting for, for a very long time. The first person I called was my father. He said, 'Thank the Lord.' I telephoned my sister and she said, 'No, I don't believe it,' " she said.

Ms Fiddler said her brother was not a violent extremist : "He was my big brother. When it was raining he used to make the sun shine.

"He may have changed a little bit when he converted to Islam and became Jamal. He did not do all the bad things, going to clubs ... he turned into a placid person where the most important thing to him was Allah and going to the mosque."

Mr al-Harith's lawyer, Robert Lizar, said his client wanted the US authorities "to answer for the injustice which he has suffered". "He has been detained as an innocent for a period of two years," Mr Lizar said. "He has been treated in a cruel, inhumane and degrading manner, he wants the authorities to answer for that." His comments raise the prospect of a compensation claim in the US courts.

Mr Iqbal, Mr Rasul, and Mr Ahmed all come come from Tipton in the West Midlands. There was evidence yesterday of racial tension as the town prepared for their return. Police issued a warning against any incitement of racial hatred after a dummy clothed in an orange boiler suit was hung from a lamppost close to the homes of the three men being held at Paddington Green.

The dummy, designed to look like one of the camp's prisoners, was quickly removed by fire crews after it was spotted at 7.45am in Tipton High Street.

West Midlands Police said in a statement: "[We] will not tolerate any behaviour which might incite racial hatred and will take action against individuals responsible for such behaviour.''

Rumours of race-hate attacks and a possible invasion of the town by British National Party activists have been rife. A warden at a local school crossing, who would not be named, said: "The three have made this place a race tinder-box and they have some answering to do because of that. They have given this place a bad name.''