US law boss will fly to Britain to discuss captives

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The Independent Online

The Pentagon's chief legal adviser is flying to Britain within days for talks with the Attorney General on the fate of nine Britons being held without charge in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The Independent on Sunday has learnt that the American delegation will be led by William J Haynes, the Pentagon's chief counsel, who is overseeing the highly controversial military tribunals being set up to try at least six detainees, including two Britons, without a jury.

Ministers are facing growing anger from the families of other Camp Delta detainees, who have furiously accused the Government of failing to force the Americans to give the British detainees their full legal and human rights, such as access to a lawyer.

The families of two of the detained Britons, Asif Iqbal and Shafiq Rasul, whose fate remains undecided, say their unhappiness has mounted since they met the Foreign Office minister Baroness Symons late last month to discuss their cases.

Their hopes of a breakthrough had risen after Tony Blair secured promises from George Bush that the two Britons identified as ready for the military court - Feroz Abbasi from Croydon, and Moazzam Begg from Birmingham - would not be executed.

But Habib Rasul, whose brother Shafiq is one of three young men from Dudley, West Midlands, allegedly captured with the Taliban in late 2001, said their reception by Lady Symons was "very negative". He claimed Lady Symons brushed off their demands for the detainees to be allowed to see a lawyer - something repeatedly denied them - their requests for a family visit, and their demands they be repatriated to face trial in the UK.

"From her body language, we could tell that she didn't want to know - the meeting was just a formality," Mr Rasul said. "They've been forgotten by the Government. It's just a headache for Tony Blair. What he's looking for is a conviction - just put them away and forget about them."

The family told the minister they had not received a letter from Shafiq for seven months, heightening their concern about his health. Asif Iqbal's last letter suggested he has suffered a mental breakdown.

Complaints by their lawyer, Daniel Guedella, that both men had been tortured and ill-treated by the US were also brushed off, Mr Rasul said. "We said they were kicked around and beaten, and made to stand in the sun for hours - that's torture. But she said we can't talk to Washington about that."