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Guantanamo Briton faces war crime charges

US military prosecutors at Guantanamo Bay have filed war crimes charges against a former British resident accused of plotting with al-Qa'ida to bomb apartment buildings in the United States, the Pentagon said today.

Ethiopian national Binyam Mohamed, 30, was charged despite a request from the UK government last year to release him from the US Navy base in southeast Cuba.

Mohamed is the 20th detainee selected to face the military tribunals at Guantanamo, and the fifth in the last week.

A Pentagon official who oversees the tribunal system, Susan Crawford, must approve the charges before an arraignment is scheduled.

Lawyers for Mohamed have argued that the US case against him rests on evidence obtained in Morocco, where they allege his genitals were slashed with a scalpel and he was repeatedly beaten during two years of confinement following his capture in 2002.

All the evidence against him appears to have been "derived from coercive interrogation and torture," civilian attorney Clive Stafford Smith and military counsel Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Yvonne Bradley said in a letter urging Ms Crawford to dismiss the charges.

His lawyers filed a lawsuit in London last month seeking to force the British government to hand over documents they claim prove the prisoner was tortured before being sent to Guantanamo in 2004.

Mohamed, who was born in Ethiopia and moved to Britain when he was 15, travelled to Afghanistan in May 2001 and trained at an al Qaida camp, according to the US charge sheet released today.

The US alleges he later accepted instructions from al-Qa'ida kingpin Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to conduct terror operations inside the United States.

At a meeting in Pakistan, the Ethiopian allegedly agreed to rent apartments inside large buildings in the US, fill them with natural gas and blow them up with timing devices.

Mohamed faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted on charges of conspiracy and supporting terrorism.

In August, Foreign Secretary David Miliband formally asked the Bush administration to release Mohamed along with four other British residents at Guantanamo.

Three of the men were sent to Britain but the US refused to release Mohamed and Saudi-born Shaker Aamer, citing particular security concerns in those cases.