Government ministers were facing questions last night about whether they were complicit in the rendition of a former UK citizen who has unexpectedly appeared before a US court months after disappearing in Africa.
Mahdi Hashi, 23,from Camden, north London, where he attended the same school as Labour leader Ed Miliband, had disappeared in Somalia when Home Secretary Theresa May issued a rare order withdrawing his citizenship earlier this year. Only a handful of such orders are issued each year.
His family had no idea where he was for five months until he appeared in a New York court on Friday accused of terrorism. Last night, his British lawyer, Saghir Hussain, said: "This has all the hallmarks of rendition. It appears the withdrawal of citizenship and the kidnapping by the Americans may have been co-ordinated.
"I am calling on the British Government to give us answers as to what they knew and what their role was. Can they offer assurances they were not complicit in the secret detention and rendition?"
Mr Hashi, 23, appeared at the Federal District Court in Brooklyn along with Ali Yasin Ahmed, 27, and Mohamed Yusuf, 29, facing charges they had trained to be suicide bombers with Somali al-Shabaab terrorists.
According to the New York Times, the case has been shrouded in mystery and under seal for four months and there was little detail offered in court.
A FBI statement accused him of "providing material support" to the militant group, participating in "an elite suicide-bomber" programme, and being on combat operations in Somalia.
Mr Hashi disappeared from his home on the outskirts of Mogadishu earlier this year. In June, his family were notified he had been stripped of his British citizenship due to his alleged involvement in Islamic extremism.
His father, Mohamed, last night said the family had only discovered his whereabouts from media reports and accused the US government of denying him rights. "We are not some slaves who can be passed around from one owner to another," he said. "Why was our son sent to the US? He has been a British citizen for 15 years but then his citizenship was taken away suddenly and now we find out that he's in New York? Our family had to find out this news from public news sources as no one has contacted us until now. We are very worried about his condition as we have no information. The US have not given our son any rights – we don't know where he's being held, how to contact him or how he's being treated. It is shocking that something like this can be done to someone based on accusations and suspicion only."
US court documents claim Mr Hashi and two Swedish men were detained in Africa by "local authorities" in August before being handed to the FBI on 14 November and flown to New York the next day. His family deny he has ever been involved in terrorist activities, insisting he was planning to return to Britain to study.
The young man, who moved to the UK aged five, was among a group of Somalis in London who had previously claimed MI5 had subjected them to a campaign of harassment and had threatened to label them as terrorists unless they agreed to work as informants. Yesterday, Asim Qureshi, research director for the human rights group CagePrisoners, said: "Mahdi Hashi has been the subject of all manner of unlawful behaviour. We believe that since the problems the UK Government has had with deportations and extraditions, it has been easier for them to remove the citizenship of individuals, thus allowing them to be victims of drone strikes or rendition by third-party countries.
"Mahdi is the latest example of how the UK Government has disingenuously used the citizenship removal, to permit others forms of illegality to take place."
UK ministers have denied any complicity in rendition. But the news about Mr Hashi comes 10 days after the British government paid £2.2m to Libyan dissident Sami al-Saadi, who claimed MI6 played a key role in his rendition to Tripoli, where he was tortured and imprisoned by Muammar Gaddafi's regime. A Home Office spokesman said last night: "We don't comment on operational security."
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