'I was MI5 go-between,' says Briton held in Guantanamo

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The Independent Online

A detainee in Guantanamo Bay with strong links to Britain has claimed he acted as a go-between for British intelligence and an alleged leading member of al-Qa'ida in London.

A detainee in Guantanamo Bay with strong links to Britain has claimed he acted as a go-between for British intelligence and an alleged leading member of al-Qa'ida in London.

The claims come from Bisher al-Rawi, 37, who came to Britain as a teenage refugee but has been held in Cuba for more than two years as a suspected supporter of al-Qa'ida. He was seized by US intelligence agents on a business trip to Gambia in November 2002 because of his friendship with Abu Qatada, the militant Islamic cleric alleged to be al-Qa'ida's "spiritual leader" in Europe.

In testimony to a US military tribunal in Cuba seen by The Independent on Sunday, Mr Rawi claimed he had acted as an intermediary between Abu Qatada, a Palestinian refugee, and MI5. He named three MI5 agents, "Alex", "Matthew" and "Martin", and asked for them to be called as defence witnesses. Although the tribunal agreed, the British Government refused to allow them to give evidence.

It is thought that Mr Rawi's MI5 contacts took place while Abu Qatada was in hiding for nine months - in a safe house the detainee has admitted finding for him in London. Abu Qatada disappeared in December 2001, hours before the Government took controversial powers to detain foreign terror suspects without trial.

But Mr Rawi, whose close family are British citizens, vehemently rejected US allegations that he was an al-Qa'ida sympathiser.

His claims follow allegations, by Islamist militants as well as French security sources, that Abu Qatada had contacts with British intelligence, which the Palestinian strongly denies. His legal advisers are adamant that he was only questioned as part of routine attempts by MI5 to gather intelligence about Islamist groups in the UK.