Police chief rules out prosecutions that rely on Guantanamo evidence

Four Britons released from Guantanamo Bay cannot be charged on the basis of confessions obtained by MI5 officers who visited the men during their three years' imprisonment at the US naval base, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner said yesterday.

Four Britons released from Guantanamo Bay cannot be charged on the basis of confessions obtained by MI5 officers who visited the men during their three years' imprisonment at the US naval base, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner said yesterday.

The men, Moazzam Begg from Birmingham, Feroz Abbasi from Croydon, Martin Mubanga from Wembley and Richard Belmar from St John's Wood, were handed over to British police officers yesterday morning after being flown to RAF Northolt in Middlesex.

They were immediately arrested under the Terrorism Act and now face further questioning over alleged links with al-Qa'ida terror groups. But Sir John Stevens, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, last night ruled out any prosecution on the basis of material gathered during interviews in Guantanamo Bay.

He told The Independent that his officers would have to obtain an admission from the four suspects or find other evidence before the men could be put on trial in this country.

The men's families welcomed their release last night, but expressed concern about their physical and mental health. Moazzam Begg's father, a retired bank manager, said: "I have got mixed feelings. I am not very excited for the simple reason that [he has suffered] mental torture for three years and I don't know what that has done to him. Also, at the same time, I am happy my son is coming home."

Mr Belmar's sister, Jeanette, claimed that even if her brother was cleared of any wrongdoing, he would still face the stigma of being a former terrorist suspect.

"I am really worried because if he wants to start his life again, he will have that behind him - 'Richard Belmar, Guantanamo Bay prisoner'," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. "It will be very hard and I am going to have to be very protective of him."

Gareth Peirce, the solicitor representing Mr Begg and Mr Belmar as well as most of the Belmarsh detainees, urged the Government to comply with the House of Lords ruling and free all the men.

"It is difficult to see how they can justify any response other than jettisoning the legislation in its entirety and direct the immediate release of the detainees," she said.

The commissioner said he had decided to arrest the men on their arrival in Britain after reading MI5 and other intelligence files which alleged that the suspects had committed offences in this country. Asked whether material obtained while the men were in Guantanamo would be unacceptable in a British court, he responded: "Absolutely."

But, he said: "If the material being used is confirmed by them - yes. If an admission is made, it is a totally different ball game. If they go to court it could be used as evidence.

"The options are: if there is enough evidence they will be charged. If not, they will be released as soon as possible."

The policeman indicated that he would not be in favour of extending the controversial emergency anti-terror legislation to allow the police to detain the men without trial.

He said the four would be taken to Paddington Green police station in London and examined by medical staff. "They will be looking at their medical condition before we put any questions to them. I have assessed all the evidence and intelligence over the weekend and we will have to put questions to them as we did the previous five [released from Guantanamo last year]."

He added: "We are taking the opportunity to put these questions to them and to deal with it and get it over and done with. I think it's in their best interest as well."

The men had been videoed on the flight to Britain because "we want to make sure everything is transparent," Sir John said, adding that he was keen for the four to meet up with their families as soon as possible. But he cautioned: "The law has to take its course.''

THE RELEASED DETAINEES

MOAZZAM BEGG, 36, from Birmingham

Married with four children, Mr Begg ran a religious book shop before his arrest. He was detained by the CIA in Pakistan in February 2002 before being transferred to the Cuban camp a year later. He was accused of being trained in explosives by al-Qa'ida. In a letter from the camp he wrote that he had been subjected to "vindictive torture".

FEROZ ABBASI, 24, from Croydon, south London

Born in Uganda, he moved to Britain at age eight. His mother says he converted to Islam after a mugging. His family last saw him in 2000 as he was leaving for Afghanistan. He was arrested in December 2001 in Kunduz. US officials claimed he had volunteered to be a suicide bomber. His family have not heard from him since late 2003.

MARTIN MUBANGA, 32, from Wembley, north London

The former motorcycle courier was raised a Catholic before converting to Islam in his late 20s. In 2000 he went to Pakistan to visit friends at an Islamic school. His family say he went to Zambia to stay with his sister in 2001. Both were held before he was put in US custody. He was said to have trained in urban war in Afghanistan.

RICHARD BELMAR, 25, from St John's Wood, north London

The former post office worker was raised in north London, reportedly converted to Islam during his teenage years and went on to worship at Regent's Park mosque. US officials said he was captured at an al-Qa'ida safe house in Pakistan in February 2002. He was accused of training in explosives and sheltering its recruits in Pakistan.

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