Spy chiefs to be consulted over Britons freed by US

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The Independent Online

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is to meet senior officers within the security services before deciding whether to bring criminal prosecutions against any of the four British men being released from Guantanamo Bay.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is to meet senior officers within the security services before deciding whether to bring criminal prosecutions against any of the four British men being released from Guantanamo Bay.

Ken Macdonald, QC, will consider intelligence gathered by both British and US officers that allegedly links the men to Osama bin Laden or the terrorist network, al-Qa'ida.

Moazzam Begg from Birmingham, and Feroz Abbasi, Martin Mubanga and Richard Belmar, all from London, are also expected to face interviews by anti-terrorist officers soon after they are flown home, possibly as early as next week.

The head of the Crown Prosecution Service is expected to advise the police on results of these interviews and any evidence already gathered by the US and British intelligence services before deciding if there is any reasonable prospect of securing convictions in Britain, and whether such prosecutions would be in the public interest.

Criminal and human rights lawyers doubt whether any confessions or other incriminating evidence obtained during the men's detention in Guantanamo Bay could be used in a court in this country because British judges will rule it to have been extracted by oppressive means.

The men's families and their lawyers yesterday called for their ordeal to be ended as soon as possible.

Human rights campaigners have been outraged at the treatment of the detainees in the US naval base in Cuba.

Amnesty International has called Camp Delta a "major human-rights scandal" and an "icon of lawlessness". Both Amnesty and the lobby group Guantanamo Human Rights Commission described the release as "long overdue".

But the US security services believe the British men still pose a security threat and have asked the Government to "manage" that alleged risk.

Senior US security officials allege at least two of the four suspects learnt bomb-making and assassination skills at al-Qa'ida camps in Afghanistan and that Mr Abbasi had met Osama bin Laden three times and volunteered for suicide missions.

Before Mr Begg left Britain to travel to Afghanistan in 2001, MI5 officers had kept his Birmingham bookshop, which traded in religious texts, under close observation.

During hearings at the Special Immigration Appeal Commission (SIAC), in London, it emerged that Mr Begg had also been linked by MI5 with at least one foreign terror suspect now being held in Belmarsh under emergency legislation rushed through Parliament in the aftermath of 11 September.

But the SIAC documents show that at least part of that investigation was seriously flawed as intelligence gathered during the MI5 operation in 2000 had wrongly led to an allegation that weapons had been found there. The judges ruled that the "Secretary of State was in error" because no weapons were ever found at Mr Begg's bookshop.

A spokeswoman for the CPS said that it was not unusual for senior CPS officers to meet officers from the security services when they had been asked to advise on the strength of evidence gathered by MI5 or MI6.