Court backs terror suspect

August 22, 2008|By New York Times News Service

LONDON - A British court said Monday that a terror suspect being held at Guantanamo Bay had a credible argument that the United States had illegally spirited him away to Morocco and that he was tortured there.

The United States has repeatedly rejected allegations by the suspect, Binyam Mohamed, that he had been sent away and tortured, most recently in a letter to the British government last month. But the British court described the American conclusion as "untenable."

It did not discuss the evidence it had seen, but said there was "no good reason" the American government had refused to turn over materials to Mohamed's lawyers that might help him prove his allegations before an American military tribunal. Because the American government would not turn over the information, the British government had an obligation to turn over potentially exculpatory material in its files, the court ruled.

In its 76-page opinion, the court also revealed portions of a highly classified interrogation of Mohamed by British intelligence that sheds new light on an alleged plot to explode a "dirty bomb" in the United States.

Mohamed, 30, a British resident before his arrest, told British intelligence agents in April 2002 that he had seen instructions on a Web site on how to make a bomb. "Part of the instructions included adding bleach to uranium 238 in a bucket and rotating it around one's head for 45 minutes," Mohamed told the agents, according to the court's judgment. Mohamed said he had concluded that the instructions were a "joke."

Mohamed faces a trial by an American military commission on several charges of conspiracy to commit terrorism, including the detonation of a "dirty bomb."

Mohamed's case has been a matter of considerable tension between Britain and the United States, and the court rebuked the Bush administration on Monday for not cooperating with the British government, or with the judicial inquiry into his case, as well as for its treatment of Mr. Mohamed.

The court said that the British Foreign Office, acting on the court's behalf, had asked the American Defense and State departments in June for information.

"It is a matter of considerable regret that no response was received, despite our reiterating our request in the course of the hearing," the justices said.

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