Welcome Home, Binyam

SACC says "Welcome Home, Binyam"
Miliband must resign over handling of the case

Press Release from Scotland Against Criminalising Communities
Updated 8.30pm, 23 February 2009

Scotland Against Criminalising Communities says "Welcome Home" to Binyam Mohamed, who arrived at Northolt military base, UK this afternoon after more than four years internment at Guantanamo Bay. He was questioned for nearly 5 hours by British police before being released and taken by his lawyers to an undisclosed address

SACC congratulates all the campaigners around the world, and all the lawyers and legal staff in Britain and the US, who fought tirelessly for his release. Sadly, no thanks at all are owed to the British Government, which could have secured Binyam's release years ago had it seriously wished to do so. Worse still, it has to be said that this failure of duty and nerve was only partly a symptom of Britain's subservience to the US. It was also a consequence of British complicity in Binyam's detention, rendition and torture.

The current British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, compounded the crimes of his predecessors at the Foreign Office when he crucially misled a British court last year by failing to explain that a letter from the US State Department saying the release of documents relating to Binyam Mohamed's torture "could harm existing intelligence-sharing arrangements" had in fact been solicited by the British Foreign Office. The judge, unaware of the circumstances of the letter, concluded that it constituted a "threat" from the US and ruled, apparently reluctantly, against release of the documents. David Milband's position is now untenable. If he is willing to mislead a British Court, how can any government in the world take him at his word? And how can we trust him to work in good faith for the release of the remaining British residents held at Guantanamo.

Speaking in defence of the Government's stonewalling over the documents, Gordon Brown said today that the Government has a "responsibility to make sure that we protect the people of this country and that their security concerns are taken into account."

One of the main security concerns of the people of this country should be to make sure that we can't be kidnapped and tortured with the collusion of our government. So let's see the documents and find out what our government has been up to.

SACC is concerned over press reports that Binyam Mohamed was asked to agree to a gagging order as a condition for his release from Guantanamo. We congratulate Binyam and his lawyers for refusing to accept this blatant bullying. Sadly, it appears that the British and US governments have neverthless imposed "voluntary" security measures on him including regular reports to a police station. But for someone sitting in a Guantanamo cell, there's no such thing as a voluntary security measure.

Binyam Mohamed is an innocent man. He is entitled to the same freedom as everyone else. The so-called security measures are face-saving devices calculated to excuse the years of illegal detention that Binyam Mohamed has suffered. Neither Barack Obama nor the British Government should be in the business of saving the faces of the Bush gang and their apparatchiks - people who tried to make lawlessness, terror and torture the official policy of the US.

In a statement released through the legal charity Reprieve, who represent him, Binyam Mohamed says:

"While I want to recover, and put it all as far in my past as I can, I also know I have an obligation to the people who still remain in those torture chambers. My own despair was greatest when I thought that everyone had abandoned me. I have a duty to make sure that nobody else is forgotten."

SACC wishes Binyam Mohamed well on his journey of recovery and we urge the press to respect his need for time and privacy. For the moment, the duty to ensure that nobody else is forgotten falls not on him but on all of us. We demand that the British Government takes urgent steps to secure the return to Britain of all the British residents still held at Guantanamo Bay. There are three that we know of - Shaker Aamer, Ahmed Belbacha, and Farhi Saeed bin Mohammed.

As a first step to securing their release, we demand the immediate resignation of David Miliband, who simply cannot be trusted. And we demand the release to the public of the documents already seen by a British Court that are believed to detail some of the circumstances of Binyam Mohamed's torture.

Notes for editors

  • Shaker Aamer, a British resident, whose wife and children are British nationals living in London, remains in solitary confinement - where he has been since 2005. A committed family man, he has never seen his youngest child and wants nothing more than to be a father again.
  • Ahmed Belbacha is an Algerian national and former British resident in his seventh year of imprisonment without charge. From the US military's perspective, he could leave Guantanamo tomorrow. But Ahmed so fears what awaits him in Algeria that he has opted to wait in Guantanamo-even in Camp Six, the prison's most grim isolation wing-until another country offers him refuge.
  • Farhi Saeed bin Mohammed is an Algerian citizen who left Algeria to seek freedom and greater economic opportunities in Europe and was captured and sold to U.S. soldiers in Pakistan after fleeing from Afghanistan. A peaceful and religious man, Farhi Saeed has lived in France, Italy, and the U.K. and would like to return to Europe to work after he is released from Guantanamo. He was cleared for transfer in 2007.