Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Binyam Mohamed. MI5 thought rendition lawful. The Abu Qatada connection.

Revealed: MI5 thought terror flight were 'lawful'

First published 29th March 2009

Terror suspect: Binyam Mohamed

MI5 made no attempt to stop terror suspect Binyam Mohamed’s extraordinary rendition by the CIA because they believed such ‘transfers’ were lawful and proper.

The admission from a senior manager in MI5’s international terrorism division raises new questions about the Security Service’s alleged complicity in torture.

Extraordinary rendition involved secretly transferring terror suspects to interrogation centres in countries with poor human rights records – a practice the British Government says it does not condone.

The new disclosures in legal statements by MI5 officers, obtained by The Mail on Sunday after this newspaper approached the High Court yesterday, show that was not the view of the Security Service when it interviewed Mohamed in 2002.

Until now the papers, which include a Witness statement from the MI5 officer who interviewed Mohamed, his official report of the meeting and two statements from the officer’s boss, had been kept secret by the courts.

Last night the evidence contained in the new documents led to calls from senior politicians for the police investigation into MI5’s handling of Mohamed’s case to be widened.

Mohamed, 30, an Ethiopian, lived in London for seven years before travelling to Afghanistan in 2001.

In a Mail on Sunday interview earlier this month, he told of his capture in Pakistan in 2002, followed by torture at the behest of the CIA there and in Morocco and Afghanistan.

He claimed that MI5 officers were complicit in his treatment, interrogating him after torture in Pakistan and supplying dossiers of questions while he was being interviewed in Morocco – where his penis was allegedly slashed with a scalpel.

Evidence that the decision to co-operate with US extraordinary renditions was taken at a high level is contained in a statement by an MI5 officer known as ‘Witness A’.

It says: ‘The transfer of detainees by the US authorities to detention facilities in Afghanistan was not unusual and was not regarded as unlawful or improper. It does not appear from the records I have seen that the Security Service objected.’

In a judgment last summer, the High Court stated that Mohamed’s detention and transfer from Pakistan were illegal.

A leading international lawyer said yesterday: ‘To hold a suspect incommunicado, without charge, to subject him to repeated coercive interrogation and to move him across international borders without judicial sanction are flagrant breaches of both Pakistani and international law, and I find it astonishing that intelligence officers were unaware of this.’

Clive Stafford Smith, Mohamed’s lawyer, said: ‘Someone told this Witness A it was perfectly fine to go around the world abducting people. Police need to find out who issued this illegal order.’

According to Witness A, MI5 was not told of Mohamed’s whereabouts but continued to supply his interrogators with questions because ‘it was considered essential in the interests of national security to try to obtain answers to certain questions, in particular about a strand of reporting suggesting current plans for an attack in the UK’.

MI5 did not, the statement says, attempt to assess if anything Mohamed said was ‘the product of torture’.

The newly-disclosed documents also include a record of an interrogation of Mohamed in Pakistan, made by another MI5 man, ‘Witness B’.

The typed note, sent to MI5 headquarters after Witness B interviewed Mohamed in a Pakistan prison in May 2002, reveals for the first time why the Security Service was so interested in him.

MI5 believed Mohamed had crucial evidence about the activities of alleged terrorist mastermind Abu Qatada, Osama Bin Laden’s so-called Ambassador to Europe, and a London-based network supplying Al Qaeda with recruits from the Ladbroke Grove mosque in West London.

Mohamed had been a cleaner at the mosque where the radical cleric, who is currently in prison facing deportation to Jordan on terror charges, was a regular. According to Witness B: ‘Abu Qatada may have played a significant part in Mohamed’s story.’

Mohamed told Witness B he had seen Abu Qatada at the mosque but ‘never approached Abu Qatada and no one at the [mosque] would talk to him [Mohamed] because he was only the cleaner.’ The MI5 officer adds: ‘This is highly implausible.’

The Security Service interview also focused on a mysterious Al Qaeda recruiter named as ‘Ali’, who apparently radicalised Mohamed after he converted to Islam and arranged for him to go on a ‘weapons and street fighting course’ at Al Qaeda’s Al Farouq camp in Afghanistan.

Mohamed told MI5 that he had met Ali at the Ladbroke Grove mosque. He said he suspected that Ali also attended Finsbury Park mosque where hook-handed cleric Abu Hamza preached and where several terrorists, including shoebomber Richard Reid and 9/11 plotter Zacarias Moussaoui, were recruited.

According to the MI5 report, Mohamed said Ali was a 30-year-old Pakistani who taught him ‘the tenets of Islam’ and with whom ‘the subject of jihad “came up”’.

‘Mohamed began to focus on Chechnya and expressed his desire to fight there,’ the report says. ‘Ali told him he had to undergo training first. Ali fixed everything for Mohamed’s travel to Afghanistan. He knew how to QUOTE fix passports, and where to get a visa UNQUOTE.’

The MI5 officer adds: ‘This possibly contradicts Mohamed’s claim that he had obtained [his false passport – which led to his arrest in Pakistan] independently.’

Last night David Davis, the former Shadow Home Secretary, said: ‘It is becoming clear with each new piece of information that British agencies’ involvement with torture and illegal detention went all the way to the top.

‘The police need to discover who was responsible for this policy and, if necessary, they must be dealt with.’

At the time of Mohamed’s capture, MI5’s anti-terrorist chief was Jonathan Evans, its present Director General.