No plans to re-interview five Guantanamo prisoners, say police

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The Independent Online

The Britons freed from Guantanamo Bay were enjoying emotional reunions with their families yesterday as police confirmed that they had no plans to re-interview them.

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Ken Macdonald QC, is believed to have advised the Metropolitan Police that the evidence passed on to the UK authorities by the Americans could not support a case against the men. Sir John Stevens, the Commissioner of the Met, said yesterday there were "no plans" to question further the four British Muslim men about terrorist matters.

He said that the Met's Anti-Terrorist Branch had treated the case like any other criminal matter and looked at what admissible evidence was available. He added that the four suspects were released after taking legal advice.

"In complicated cases like this we would be very awry not to take legal advice at the highest level," Sir John said.

Lawyers and families of the freed detainees expressed their delight as the men were reunited with their relatives after two years' forced separation.

Anti-terrorist officers arranged for them to be taken to secret locations of their choice where they were reunited with their families.

Shafiq Rasul, 26, Rhuhel Ahmed, 23, and Asif Iqbal, 22, all from Tipton, West Midlands, and Tareq Dergoul, 26, from east London, had been released on Wednesday. It followed the release on Tuesday of Jamal al-Harith (also known as Jamal Udeen), 37, from Manchester.

A relative of Mr Ahmed, who did not wish to be named, said: "We are delighted that he has been released." At least one of the men was believed to be finalising a lucrative media deal. It was reported yesterday that the former prisoner had sold his story to the Daily Mirror and ITV for £60,000.

The others were expected to follow suit shortly.

Lawyers for all nine British detainees, including the four still being held in Guantanamo Bay, repeated their claims that their detention at the American naval base in Cuba was in breach of international law.

Louise Christian, for Mr Dergoul, described his treatment as "oppressive". This was later echoed by Muslim community leaders.

Speaking to reporters, Dr Mohammed Naseem, chairman of Birmingham Central Mosque and a well-known Muslim figure in the region, condemned the treatment of the detainees. "I think it is tragic - it is deplorable what happened to them," he said in Tipton.

"I think back to the times of Stalin and Hitler when people were being taken away somewhere where no one knew where they were.

"They were just disappearing and that is happening now. We are doing the same thing that Stalin and Hitler did."

The Tipton trio's MP, Adrian Bailey, said he understood that the men would be taken to a safe house at a secret location. The MP for West Bromwich West said: "I know the families have an arrangement for them to be accommodated and for very understandable reasons, they are not divulging any details of that."

Ms Christian voiced concern for the detainees still being held at Guantanamo Bay. She said: "What I am now thinking of is the other four people who have been left behind, and their families.

"What their families must be thinking of is they are looking at this news coverage and thinking that it should have been their family members who were brought back as well, and that the British Government has betrayed their promise to bring all nine British citizens back again."

Max Clifford, a publicist, said he had spoken to Mr Dergoul's brother Halid, who described the former detainee as psychologically sound but in considerable pain. He said: "I spoke to Halid yesterday evening. He had spoken briefly to his brother earlier on and he said that mentally he seemed to be OK - considering what he had been through - but physically he wasn't very good and that he was having great difficulty walking."

Yesterday it also emerged that one of the Tipton trio, Mr Ahmed, would escape prosecution over a theft charge and non-payment of compensation to a teenager he had admitted assaulting near his hometown before he left for Pakistan.

Lawyers for Crown Prosecution Service said: "We decided not to proceed with the matter because we feel he has already served two and half years at Guantanamo Bay."

Mr Ahmed and Mr Iqbal, another of Tipton men detained at Camp Delta, were members of a gang of four who turned on an innocent bystander after clashing with another gang in Dudley. The case was heard at Wolverhampton Crown Court, where it emerged that the victim suffered a broken jaw and collarbone after he was beaten and kicked by his assailants.

Mr Ahmed admitted assault occasioning actual bodily harm and Mr Iqbal admitted violent disorder. Mr Ahmed had made two payments to the victim before falling into arrears.

The other criminal case that Mr Ahmed was accused of relates to the theft of tyres and wheels from a Honda car in March 2001.