March 23, 2009 / 2:43 PM / 11 years ago

U.S. tried to win ex-Guantanamo detainee's silence

LONDON (Reuters) - U.S. government lawyers tried to get a British resident held at Guantanamo Bay to sign a deal saying he had never been tortured and that he would not speak to the media as a condition of his release, according to documents presented in the High Court in London.

The aircraft carrying freed Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed prepares to land at RAF Northolt, west of London February 23, 2009. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

The lawyers also wanted Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian held at Guantanamo for four years, to plead guilty to secure his freedom, even though he was charged with no crime, according to documents released by two judges who ruled in the High Court case.

The documents, relating to a ruling the judges made last October, reveal the U.S. military wanted Mohamed to agree not to sue the United States or any of its allies, and that any rights to compensation should be assigned to the U.S. government.

“The accused agrees not to participate in or support in any manner any litigation or challenge, in any forum, against the United States or any other nation or any official of any nation, whether military or civilian ...” a draft plea agreement proposed by the lawyers in late 2008 stated.

“The accused assigns to the United States all legal rights to sign and submit any necessary documents, motions or pleadings to implement this provision on behalf of the accused,” a key clause in the agreement read.

The proposed agreement was contained in documents brought before the High Court in October, when the court ruled that a series of documents relating to Mohamed’s case could not be made public because doing so might jeopardize national security agreements between Britain and the United States.

Mohamed’s lawyers rejected the agreement and Mohamed was eventually released last month with almost no conditions.

“The facts revealed today reflect the way the U.S. government has consistently tried to cover up the truth of Binyam Mohamed’s torture,” said Clive Stafford-Smith, a lawyer for Mohamed and director of the human rights charity Reprieve.

“Gradually the truth is leaking out, and the governments on both sides of the Atlantic should pause to consider whether they should continue to fight to keep this torture evidence secret.”

“TORTURE AND ABUSE”

A converted Muslim, Mohamed, 30, was a British resident when he traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan in mid-2001, a trip he says he undertook to overcome a drug addiction.

He was seized in April 2002 as he tried to leave Pakistan on a false passport. He says he was tortured while in custody there, with the knowledge of British intelligence officers, before being flown to Morocco on a CIA plane.

He says he was held in Morocco for nearly two years before being transferred to Afghanistan and ending up in Guantanamo Bay in September 2004.

During his 6-1/2 years in detention, Mohamed says he was repeatedly subjected torture and abuse, including “waterboarding,” or simulated drowning, and having his genitals cut with a scalpel. The United States denies torture.

U.S. authorities accused Mohamed of training at al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan and linked him to a bomb plot. But charges were dropped and he was finally freed on February 23.

Since his return to Britain, Mohamed has spoken to the media and repeated his accusations. While he is now free, he has agreed to some security conditions, including a commitment not to travel to the United States.

U.S. lawyers have previously succeeded in getting Guantanamo detainees to sign “confidentiality” agreements. Australian David Hicks, the first prisoner convicted at Guantanamo, signed a statement saying he had “never been illegally treated while in U.S. custody,” as part of a deal that limited his prison term.

That agreement also barred Hicks from speaking to the media.

Additional reporting by Jane Sutton in Miami, editing by Alison Williams

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