Guantanamo veteran stopped from attending reunion party

Qatari national detained at Heathrow for failing to notify Government of arrival
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The Independent Online

Plans for a Guantanamo reunion arranged for the newly-freed British resident Binyam Mohamed have been abandoned after Government intervention.

Home Office officials detained a Qatari national yesterday who had flown into the UK to join other inmates of the notorious US Navy prison at a secret location in the British countryside, where they were to celebrate Mr Mohamed's freedom.

Jarullah al-Marri, who was released from Guantanamo last year after seven years' imprisonment, was detained on arrival at Heathrow and taken to an immigration detention centre after failing to notify the government of his spell in Guantanamo.

Moazzam Begg, the British citizen released from American custody in 2005, said the plan was for them both to be reunited with Mr Mohamed who, they last saw in the American prison camp. Now Mr al-Marri is facing deportation and remains at Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre.

Mr Begg described the situation as "bizarre", adding: "He first came to the UK last month to accompany me and a former Guantanamo guard on our tour, "Two Sides, One Story", around the UK, which was extensively covered by the media during our visits to more than 18 cities.

"Jarullah returned home after that with a view to come back to the UK to discuss the case of his brother, Ali al-Marri, the only person designated 'enemy combatant' on US soil and held without charge since 2001. With that in mind, he had arranged to meet with [the lawyer] Gareth Peirce, Clive Stafford Smith [Reprieve's legal director] and Amnesty International."

Mr Mohamed is spending private time with his family and friends while he decides on the best way to pursue allegations against the British Government of collusion in his torture. Ministers face mounting pressure to release documents which Mr Mohamed's lawyer says will prove British agents helped in his torture while held in Pakistan and Morocco. The 30-year-old Ethiopian-born refugee has few remaining ties to Britain. His siblings live in the US and his status as a British resident expired during the years he spent in US custody.

Yesterday, the chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Keith Vaz, wrote to the Attorney General to demand a quicker resolution of the decision on whether or not there should be a criminal investigation into the alleged torture of Binyam Mohamed. Mr Vaz said in the committee's letter: "We understand that, on 23 October, the Home Secretary asked you to consider whether the police should be invited to investigate the possible involvement of British officials in this affair.

"It is now four months since that referral, and the Home Affairs Committee is concerned that you have not yet been able to make a decision about a police investigation. We urge you to bring this serious issue to an expeditious conclusion, and we would be grateful if you would supply us with an indication of when you expect to make a decision."

The chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Mike Gapes, said yesterday that the US should reveal what it knows of Mr Mohamed's alleged torture. The Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, has been accused by two senior judges of bowing to pressure from the US Government to keep details of Mr Mohamed's treatment secret.

"I think the solution here is that the US authorities release that information," Mr Gapes said. "I think it is in the public interest... and this information will probably be leaked at some point or another anyway. I think it's more damaging if this issue drags on, drip, drip, drip, drip, drip. Let's get it into the open, let's also get the Attorney General's report very quickly on whether there is a case for legal action against someone working for the British authorities."

Mr Gapes said Mr Mohamed had made some "very serious allegations" about torture – and the UK's role in it – which must be investigated. "Our government policy, our national policy, is total opposition to torture, or complicity or collaboration in torture," he said. "This, if it's true, is a very serious stain upon the position that consistently the Government has been taking, both publicly and privately, that we do not collaborate or carry out or practice torture."

Mr Miliband issued a written statement on the case to the Commons yesterday, insisting that any decision on the disclosure of further details lay with the US authorities. "The Government abhors torture and does not order or condone it," he wrote. "We have raised with the US allegations of mistreatment put to us by UK nationals or residents currently or formerly detained at Guantanamo Bay, including Mr Mohamed."

Mr Miliband said Mr Mohamed's immigration status was being reviewed and allowing him to return to Britain did not constitute a commitment to giving him permanent residence status. The Foreign Secretary also reiterated Britain's request for another former UK resident, Shaker Aamer, to be released from Guantanamo.