March 26, 2009 / 4:45 PM / 9 years ago

Britain to investigate possible MI5 role in torture

(Adds quotes, details, background, throughout)

By Luke Baker

LONDON, March 26 (Reuters) - Britain is to investigate whether members of its secret services were complicit in the torture of a British resident released from Guantanamo Bay last month after nearly seven years in detention.

Attorney General Patricia Scotland said that after studying evidence for four months, some of it highly sensitive, she had decided there were sufficient grounds to launch a criminal investigation into allegations made by Binyam Mohamed.

"I have concluded that the appropriate course of action is to invite the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police to commence an investigation into the allegations that have been made in relation to Binyam Mohamed," she said in a statement.

Mohamed, an Ethiopian citizen who moved to Britain as a teenager and has British residency, was detained in Pakistan in April 2002 as he tried to leave the country on a false passport.

He was held in Pakistan for nearly two months, during which time he says he was tortured and abused by Pakistani authorities with the knowledge of British intelligence officers.

He was later flown to Morocco on a CIA plane, where he says he was tortured and abused, while being asked questions that he says could only have come from British intelligence.

Britain has denied any role in torture, or collusion with other countries that might have tortured Mohamed.

But the government’s position has been called into question by human rights groups and members of parliament investigating Britain’s role in rendition, the process of moving detainees from one country to another where torture might be used.

Andrew Tyrie, who heads a parliamentary committee on rendition, welcomed the attorney general’s move, saying he hoped it would shed more light on the role Britain has played.



NATURE OF INQUIRY

But he questioned whether a narrowly focused investigation was sufficient, calling for a broader, judge-led inquiry into the full role played by foreign and domestic security services.

"Only a judge-led inquiry can enable us to draw a line under all of this, and give the public confidence that we will finally get to the truth on rendition," he said.

Mohamed, 30, spent nearly seven years in custody -- in Pakistan, Morocco, Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay -- before being released last month and returned to Britain.

The Americans accused him of receiving training at al Qaeda camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan during 2001 and 2002, and linked him to a "dirty bomb" plot in the United States. But all charges against him were dropped and he is now a free man.

During interrogations, Mohamed says he was subjected to "waterboarding" -- simulated drowning -- and had his penis repeatedly cut with a scalpel.

Reprieve, a human rights group that campaigned for his release, welcomed the attorney general’s move, but expressed concern about whether it would have sufficient scope.

"The key to any successful police inquiry is whether or not they have access to all the documents, including secret documents," said Zachary Katznelson, a Reprieve lawyer.



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