Charity questions UK over rendition

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The Independent Online

A legal advocacy group sought today to compel Britain's government to investigate a Pakistani man's claim that he was aboard an extraordinary rendition flight that made a refueling stop in Diego Garcia, a British island in the Indian Ocean.

Reprieve said it is preparing to file a lawsuit at the High Court demanding a judicial review of the government decision to refrain from examining Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni's allegation that he was one of two terrorism suspects transferred through the British territory.

The group confirmed it also will take legal action in the United States, as part of a suit dealing with the case of another Guantanamo detainee, Shafiq Rasul, to allege that Madni's rendition in January 2002 was a criminal act.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband told lawmakers last year that the previous U.S. administration belatedly informed him two detainees were aboard rendition flights that stopped on the island in 2002. Miliband and his predecessors had earlier denied that Diego Garcia had been used in extraordinary rendition.

Miliband did not name the suspects aboard the flights, but said one was bound for Guantanamo Bay and another to Morocco. He later confirmed that the detainee sent to Guantanamo Bay had been subsequently released.

Reprieve believes Madni was on one of the flights. He was detained in Indonesia in January 2002, and sent to Guantanamo Bay via Egypt, where he alleges he was tortured for 92 days.

Madni, a 31-year-old who lives in Lahore, Pakistan, was released from Guantanamo in August 2008 without charge.

Reprieve said that, based on an assessment of flight records and details of those who were detained in 2002 and released in 2008, it believes Madni was almost certainly aboard a flight that refueled in Diego Garcia. Lawyers say that he recalls a 30-minute stop during his journey, which they claim would be consistent with a landing on the island.

Madni alleges that while held in Egypt, his captors gave him electric shocks with a cattle prod and forced him to drink liquids which he says were laced with drugs.

"During the interrogation they tortured me by electric shock in my knees. As a result of that torture, since I have come back to Pakistan I can't walk," Madni said, speaking by telephone from Lahore. He said his nervous system has been damaged.

Madni denies any links to terrorism and claimed that while held in Bagram, Afghanistan, U.S. officials acknowledged they had detained him mistakenly but told him he needed to go to Guantanamo to win his release. U.S. officials said he was in the "wrong place at the wrong time," Madni claims.

"Mr. Madni suffers serious physical and psychological injuries as a result of his rendition to torture, yet has never had so much as an apology from his abusers. He is happy finally to be free, but wants to launch this action to ensure that no one is forced to suffer in this way in future," said Reprieve Director Clive Stafford Smith.

Britain's Foreign Office said that it has received a letter from Reprieve notifying it about the planned legal action.

"We are considering our response," the Foreign Office said in a statement.

In January, in response to a lawmaker's written question about the flights, the Foreign Office said it had considered "the possibility that criminal offenses may have been committed in relation to the two rendition flights," but had only limited information, and had not been able to establish sufficient details to investigate.

"We have made our disappointment about these flights clear with the U.S. and secured firm new assurances that on no other occasion since Sept. 11, 2001, has a U.S. intelligence flight with a detainee on board passed through U.K. territory," a spokeswoman said Tuesday, on condition of anonymity in line with policy.

The administration of former President George W. Bush was widely criticized for its practice of extraordinary rendition, whereby the CIA transferred suspects overseas for interrogation. Human rights advocates claim the policy allowed the agency to outsource torture of prisoners to countries where it is permitted. Several former prisoners have alleged they were tortured.

President Barack Obama pledged in January to review the policy.