Mystery of security service officer's trips

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Indy Politics

An officer of the UK Security Service visited Morocco three times during the period when former terror suspect Binyam Mohamed claims he was being tortured there by the CIA, it was disclosed today.

But the Security Service (SyS), which was taking a close interest in Mr Mohamed at the time and knew he was being debriefed by the US in a covert location, still maintained that it did not know he was being held in Morocco, two High Court judges in London said.

The SyS insisted it was unaware of his "extraordinary rendition" by US personnel in July 2002 from Pakistan to Morocco where, he says, he was detained for two years and subjected to torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones said they were "unable to determine the significance (if any)" of the SyS officer's visits to Morocco.

The new disclosure came in an amended version of a judgment handed down by the judges last August in which they had said the Foreign Office was under a duty to reveal, in confidence, to Mr Mohamed's lawyers certain information which was vital to his defence to terror charges.

The fresh material was inserted to reflect information in documents supplied to the court since the original judgment was given.

At that time, Mr Mohammed, now 31, was held at Guantanamo Bay awaiting trial. He has since been released and has returned to the UK, but is still fighting to prove that he was tortured and that the British authorities facilitated his detention and knew about the wrongdoing to which he was being subjected.

The judges have held it was clear from the fact that the UK intelligence services sought to interview Mr Mohamed during his detention and supplied information and questions for his interviews by others "that the relationship of the United Kingdom Government to the United States authorities in connection with Binyam Mohamed was far beyond that of a bystander or witness to the alleged wrongdoing".

Mr Mohamed, an Ethiopian, was granted refugee status in Britain in 1994. He was detained in Pakistan in 2002 on suspicion of involvement in terrorism and then "rendered" to Morocco and Afghanistan.

After being subjected to alleged torture by his US captors, he was sent to Guantanamo Bay in 2004.

The Government has come under increasing pressure to allow disclosure of material which could indicate how much M15 and other government officials knew about the treatment of Mr Mohamed.

The judges have held back from publishing a seven paragraph summary of his alleged torture in the light of warnings from the CIA and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that such disclosure would cause the US to reasses its intelligence-sharing relationship with the UK - thus potentially putting the lives of British citizens at risk.

The court has yet to hear further submissions on behalf of Foreign Secretary David Miliband before deciding whether to publish the paragraphs, which are not in themselves a threat to national security.

In separate pending High Court proceedings, seven former Guantanamo detainees - including Mr Mohamed - are bringing test case damages claims against MI5 and MI6, the Attorney General, the Foreign Office and the Home Office.

They allege the security services were guilty, as part of a wider pattern of systemic misconduct, of "unlawful conduct amounting to domestic and international crimes in aiding and abetting the unlawful imprisonment, extraordinary rendition and torture" of each claimant.

Mr Mohamed claims that, in Morocco, he was severely beaten and subjected to sleep deprivation and that his penis and private parts were cut with a scalpel.