Coming home: the last Briton in Guantanamo

Binyam Mohamed’s family warned that they may not recognise him

The seven-year ordeal of a British resident held by the Americans at Guantanamo Bay is expected to end this evening when an RAF plane touches down at a military airfield somewhere in the Home Counties.

Family and friends waiting to be reunited with Binyam Mohamed, 31, have been warned that they may not immediately recognise the figure who emerges from the darkness of the aircraft on to the floodlit asphalt airstrip.

Mr Mohamed, who left Britain for Afghanistan in 2001, has shed a quarter of his bodyweight after being held in what he describes as barbaric conditions of detention and torture.

The first signal of his transfer from American to British custody will be the cutting of his plastic handcuffs by members of the Metropolitan Police team of officers and medics who have been sent to collect him from the naval base in Cuba.

During the eight-hour flight to UK airspace Mr Mohamed will be offered a halal meal as well as spiritual sustenance from an Islamic cleric who is expected to be on board the plane.

After arriving in Britain he will be handed over to officers working for the UK Border Agency who will ask him a series of formal questions about his residency and immigration status. He may also be asked to surrender his passport, if he still has one. But Mr Mohamed is unlikely to follow the next stage of a journey familiar to the other four British residents and nine nationals released from Guantanamo Bay. Instead of the long drive to Paddington Green’s high-security police station in west London to face further questioning under terror legislation, Mr Mohamed is expected to be freed immediately.

Clive Stafford Smith, Mr Mohamed’s lawyer, said last night: “I think everyone knows just how much Binyam has suffered. There is absolutely no need to prolong his terrible ordeal by further detaining him and I expect he will be freed pretty quickly.” Of greater concern will be his medical condition. Mr Mohamed, who is over 6ft tall, has spent the last few weeks of his detention at the notorious prison camp on hunger strike and now weighs 8st 9 lb. He has been strapped to chair and force-fed through a tube. There are also concerns about his psychological health. Mr Mohamed says that after his arrest in Pakistan in 2002 the Americans took him to Morocco, where he was severely beaten, deprived of sleep and had his genitals cut with a scalpel. Eighteen months later he was flown to Kabul where he claims to have been held in a black hole in a prison, beaten, hung up and subjected to loud music before being transferred to Guantanamo Bay. In both places, under torture, he said he had confessed “to anything those inflicting that treatment on him wanted him to say”.

The focus of his care and rehabilitation will be the responsibility of the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture which has helped other Guantanamo detainees after release.

Mr Mohamed’s family live in America but his two sisters and older brother are to fly to Britain today for a reunion. They lost contact with him shortly after Binyam travelled from his west London home to Afghanistan in 2001.

His brother and sisters remember a caring sibling who enjoyed sport and academic lessons. Benhur, his older brother who emigrated to America to become a doctor, says that Binyam enjoyed Western culture including popular TV progammes including Cheers: “He also liked listening to George Michael and his favourite sport was soccer. One of Binyam’s favourite films was Police Academy. He watched it constantly and had the entire thing memorised. It used to drive me crazy,” he said.

Mr Mohamed came to Britain as an asylum-seeker at the age of 15 in 1994 when he was granted temporary residence and studied engineering and computers. Later he worked as a caretaker before going to Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2001, in order, he said, to resolve his drug addiction.

Pakistani forces held him in April 2002 as he tried to return to the UK. He was questioned by CIA and MI5 officers before being flown by the Americans to Morocco.

Once Mr Mohamed’s medical treatment has been addressed his family and legal team will organise his resettlement in Britain. Mr Mohamed’s most pressing need will be establishing his financial independence to support his new-found freedom. Other British Guantanamo detainees have found it necessary to raise funds by selling their exclusive stories to the media. But the immediate outlook is still bleak. The mental scars of incarceration and torture make it difficult for a former Guantanamo inmate to find work while the stigma associated with an accusation of terrorism makes it impossible to rejoin ordinary society. But public interest in Mr Mohamed is unlikely to fade away. His return to Britain may only mark the beginning of the next stage on his road to justice.

Life after Camp X-Ray

*Bisher al-Rawi

Former public schoolboy whose family came to Britain to escape Saddam Hussein’s regime. Mr Rawi was arrested in Gambia after going there with his brother to set up a mobile peanut processing plant. He was released from Guantanamo in April 2007 and at first found it difficult to adjust to life in Britain, but now works for a voluntary human rights group.

*Moazzam Begg

A former law student and bookshop owner from Birmingham joined hundreds of other “unlawful combatants”, shackled and dressed in orange jumpsuits, at Guantanamo Bay. He was arrested by CIA in Islamabad in February 2002. Since his release in 2005 he has established himself as a leading human rights activist, campaigning for the closure of his former prison.

*Martin Mubanga

Mubanga, who has dual British and Zambian nationality, was one of four Britons who were released from the camp in January 2005. He said he was sent there after being interrogated by a British man who said he was from MI6, shortly after his arrest in Zambia in March 2002. Originally from north London, there is little information about his life or present whereabouts.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Life and Style
Mark's crab tarts are just the right size
food + drinkMark Hix cooks up some snacks that pack a punch
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect