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Spy chiefs to give evidence in public at torture inquiry

The heads of MI5 and MI6 are to be asked to give evidence in public at an inquiry into the alleged torture of British terrorist suspects.

Jonathan Evans, the head of MI5, and Sir John Sawers, the MI6 chief, will be called by Sir Peter Gibson, the chairman of the inquiry, which will examine claims that security agencies colluded in the mistreatment of British suspects. However, if less senior staff appear, they will be allowed to give evidence in private. The terms under which the inquiry will operate, announced yesterday, mean detainees and their legal teams will be barred from hearing much of the evidence.

The Cabinet Secretary, rather than the inquiry panel, will have the power to decide which evidence can be made public and which will remain secret, leading civil liberties groups to argue that the inquiry will fail to uncover the truth about the allegations. Clive Stafford Smith, director of Reprieve, said: "This is a whitewash where virtually nothing will be made public that is not already in the public domain."