Parliament 'misled over rendition of alleged terrorists'

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The Independent Online

The Government misled Parliament over two alleged terrorists who were subject to 'extraordinary rendition', a legal charity said today.

Clive Stafford Smith from Reprieve said ministers had made "factually incorrect" statements to MPs when they admitted Britain's complicity in their rendition.

Both men were captured by British soldiers in Iraq in February 2004 and handed over to the US authorities, who flew them to Afghanistan.

In a statement to the House of Commons in February, then Defence Secretary John Hutton said the men were members of an extremist group Lashkar e Taiba (LeT)

LeT, which was responsible for the Mumbai attacks this year, is a radical Sunni group.

Mr Hutton also said the US Government claimed the men were moved to Afghanistan because of a lack of translators.

But an investigation by Reprieve revealed one of the men, Pakistani national Amanatullah Ali, is from the Shia sect of Islam.

Reprieve said both men were Arabic speakers and so could have been interrogated in Iraq. The US moved the men so they could be held in prison, the charity claimed.

Former shadow home secretary David Davis has tabled a string of questions about the case in Parliament. The Tory MP said ministers had "washed their hands" of the two men.

According to Reprieve, Ali is a rice merchant from Pakistan who was on pilgrimage in Iraq when he was shot in the foot and captured.

The identity of the second man has not been confirmed but he is thought to be called Salahuddin. Reports from Afghanistan suggest he has "catastrophic" mental health problems, Reprieve said.

The Ministry of Defence has not identified either man, and in correspondence with Reprieve said doing so would violate their rights under the Data Protection Act.

Reprieve is demanding access to the men - who are thought to be in detention at Bagram Air Base - to provide them with legal assistance.

Mr Hutton's statement followed years of denials that Britain had been involved in rendition.

He revealed both Justice Secretary Jack Straw and former Home Secretary Charles Clarke had been informed about the case in briefing papers.

MPs and civil liberties groups have repeatedly called for a full inquiry into what happened.

Mr Stafford Smith said: "The particular importance of this case - beyond the fact that an entirely innocent person seems to have been held in prison for more than five years - is that Government ministers misled Parliament and the country by denying that we had anything to do with rendition and then, when John Hutton 'apologised' for this, he misled Parliament again.

"And the government now appears unwilling to admit that they are still propagating falsehoods."