Straw faces MPs over claims MI6 delivered suspect for torture

Click to follow
Indy Politics

A horrific and graphic account of abuse, sleep deprivation and torture has been given to lawyers by Benyam Mohammed al-Habashi, 27, who claims he was handed to the CIA by MI6 officers after being arrested in Pakistan while trying to board a flight in Karachi on a false passport.

Mr Habashi, an Ethiopian who claimed asylum in Britain, says he was taken to CIA detention centres and subjected to systematic torture by Americans who claimed he was part of a plot to set off a nuclear "dirty bomb" in America. He said he was interrogated for 18 months in a Moroccan prison, and had his penis cut with a scalpel. He also claims he was chained to a wall for days, chained to the floor in a pitch-dark cell in Kabul, and turned into a heroin adcict.

His lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, believes he could be the first British resident to become a victim of extraordinary rendition by the US. Mr Stafford Smith said: "There is no doubt that Benyam was rendered and tortured in a most savage and barbaric way."

He is facing trial before a military court at Guantanamo Bay - the US detention centre in Cuba - and could be jailed for life, but no date has been set for his hearing. Mr Straw and other ministers have given assurances that Britain does not condone torture and the intelligence services are not involved in torturing prisoners. The Law Lords last week ruled that evidence obtained using torture was inadmissable in British courts.

MPs on the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee who are investigating the reports of more than 400 flights by CIA planes in and out of Britain will raise the case with Mr Straw when they take further evidence from the Foreign Secretary. "This does need to be looked at and it will be raised," said a Labour member of the committee.

Mr Habashi, from Notting Hill, London, was stopped at the airport en route for London on 10 April, 2002 when he was spotted using a passport he says he borrowed from a friend "to go travelling". British intelligence officers, believed to be from MI6, were allowed to see him in a prison in Pakistan.

He told his lawyer he was taken to a military airfield and handed over to the Americans who flew him to Rabat, Morocco, on 22 July 2002, where he was held until being moved by the CIA to Afghanistan on 22 January 2004. Mr Stafford Smith believes the British were cooperating with the Moroccans. While in the prison, an interrogator told Mr Habashi: "We have been working with the British and we have photos of people given to us by MI5.''

He was flown by the CIA to Kabul, Afghanistan on 22 January 2004 for more interrogation and transferred on 18 September, 2004 to Guantanamo Bay where he has been held for over a year.

The indictment against him says he trained at terrorist camps in Afghanistan and in Karachi met Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the al-Q'aida architect of the 11 September attacks on New York, who gave him a "mission" to blow up New York apartment blocks. He admits to going to Afghanistan but denies being involved in terrorism. Al-Q'aida is said to train its followers to make false allegations of torture if captured.