"Detainee 'just skin and bones' after six years in custody; British resident went on hunger strikes after claims of mental and physical torture
5 February 2009
On 24 July last year, Binyam Mohamed marked his 30th birthday, and his sixth in US military custody. It was not a very festive occasion. Two months earlier, it had emerged, Mohamed had begun a hunger strike, though for 16 days his guards at Guantánamo Bay did not notice, according to his lawyers. When it finally became apparent he was refusing his food, by which time he had lost more than 6kg (about 14lb), they say he was shown a book called Healthy Eating, featuring photos of gourmet treats from around the world.
Mohamed was taken into custody in Pakistan in 2002, as he attempted to fly home to Britain using a fake British passport. He was born in Ethiopia but moved to London as a refugee with his parents in 1994, aged 15, and while he has never been granted British citizenship, Mohamed was given leave to remain in the UK. He spent his late teens and early 20s in Notting Hill, working as a janitor while studying engineering.
By the summer of 2001, he has claimed, he had a drugs problem, but his Muslim faith was deepening and he travelled to Afghanistan to see the Taliban's hardline regime for himself. He was detained at Karachi airport the following April.
The US authorities claimed Mohamed had been attending al-Qaida training camps and accused him of conspiring with the American Muslim convert Jose Padilla to plot a "dirty bomb" attack on a US city. Those charges were dropped, but the US said it expected further charges.
The British authorities were informed, and he was visited by an MI5 agent. The agent later told his superiors in a telegram that Mohamed had been recruited at a London mosque to travel to Afghanistan to learn about weapons and explosives.
"[BM] is intelligent and patient," the agent wrote to his superiors. "I suspect that he will only begin to provide information of genuine value if he comes to believe that it is genuinely in his interests to do so. I don't think he has yet reached this point."
Last August the high court ruled that the British security services colluded in his treatment at the time, during a period of detention which it ruled illegal under Pakistani law. The court heard of the agent's "veiled threat", which amounted, in effect, to the implication "we won't help you unless you confess".
Mohamed claims he said he would co-operate with US interrogators when he had seen a lawyer, but was told the law had changed and there were no lawyers. He was hung by leather wrist straps so he could barely stand, he says, and fed every second day.
In July 2002, Mohamed was secretly flown to Morocco, where he spent 18 months in what he called a "torture chamber". He says he was beaten, scalded and blasted with music for hours at a time, and his genitals were repeatedly sliced with a razor blade.
"When I later sat across from him in the cell, he described how psyops methods were worse than [the mutilation]," his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, has written. "He could anticipate physical pain, he said, and know that it would eventually end. But the experience of slipping into madness as a result of torture by music was something quite different. 'Imagine you are given a choice,' he said. 'Lose your sight or lose your mind.'"
Despite his treatment, Mohamed says he refused to confess to the dirty bomb allegations until he was flown to Kabul in January 2004, and subjected to a further five months of torture. Flight logs show that he arrived at Guantánamo Bay in September 2004. In his four years there, according to his lawyers, Mohamed has been on numerous hunger strikes and recently showed signs of severe mental disturbance.
In August 2007 David Miliband wrote to Condoleezza Rice, then US secretary of state, requesting his release, with four other British residents; last May Mohamed wrote to Gordon Brown about the "kangaroo court" conditions he was held in.
Last month Mohamed was told unofficially to expect his imminent release, but after another hunger strike he is said to be close to death. "He is just skin and bones," said Lieutenant Colonel Yvonne Bradley, a US military lawyer who visited him last week. "The real worry is that he comes out in a coffin."
For more on the abominable atrocity of U.S. torture, go HERE and scroll down.