Guantanamo Bay Britons out of isolation after protest

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Indy Politics

Two mentally ill British detainees in Guantanamo Bay have been moved out of solitary confinement after Foreign Office protests about their declining health.

Feroz Abbasi, from south London, and Moazzam Begg, from Birmingham, had been held in isolation cells for more than 18 months after the Pentagon ruled they should stand trial as al-Qa'ida terrorists.

The Foreign Office has confirmed that last month both men were moved from solitary confinement in Camp Echo into the main prison, known as Camp Delta.

The harsh conditions in Camp Echo - a specially built "camp within a camp" for high-security detainees - have drawn repeated complaints from the British government, lawyers and human rights groups.

British diplomats and the detainees' lawyers allege that both men are suffering post-traumatic stress and attempted suicide after being locked up in windowless cells without human contact.

Until earlier this year, neither man was allowed to exercise in daylight. The camp authorities withdrew a guard outside Mr Begg's cell and fitted a CCTV camera instead because the guard was talking to him.

However, neither man has yet been given the same rights to association, recreation and joint prayers given to other detainees in Camp Delta, and they are still living under tighter restrictions.

British officials insist they are still negotiating actively with the US to release all four British detainees still in Guantanamo Bay, including Richard Belmar and Martin Mubanga, both from London. These claims are now being treated with growing scepticism by the men's lawyers.

Mr Abbasi and Mr Begg have been designated by the Pentagon as suitable for a military trial for alleged terrorist activity. Last month, Mr Abbasi was also declared an "enemy combatant" after a secret military tribunal at the base.

Gita Gutierrez, the US-based lawyer for Mr Abbasi, said: "I hope this does not make the Foreign Office lessen their efforts to get these British citizens repatriated. These are individuals who have suffered a great deal of physical abuse, stress and torture. They are still suffering the effects of that."