LONDON (Reuters) - Two senior British judges accused the United States on Wednesday of threatening to end intelligence cooperation if Britain released evidence about the alleged torture of a Guantanamo detainee.
The judges quoted lawyers for British Foreign Secretary David Miliband as saying the U.S. government, by reviewing intelligence cooperation, “could inflict on the citizens of the United Kingdom a very considerable increase in the dangers they face at a time when a serious terrorist threat still pertains.”
According to the ruling from High Court judges Lord Justice Thomas and Lord Justice Lloyd Jones, Miliband’s lawyers said the threat had existed for some time and was still in place under President Barack Obama’s administration.
British media had applied to the court for the release of full details of the evidence the British government held about the treatment of Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian-born British resident who is held in Guantanamo Bay.
The judges ruled it would not be in the public interest to expose Britain to the “real risk” outlined by the foreign secretary’s lawyers.
The sensitive paragraphs supplied by U.S. intelligence services and kept out of an initial judgment last August should not be restored, the judges said.
Miliband later told Channel 4 News the case was “serious,” and that Britain never condoned or authorized the use of torture.
He added: “There has been no threat from the United States to quote-unquote break off intelligence cooperation.”
Mohamed, arrested in Pakistan in April 2002, was accused of training at al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, joining a squad of al Qaeda bomb-makers in Pakistan and plotting to set off a radioactive bomb in the United States.
In October, the Pentagon official overseeing the Guantanamo war crimes court dismissed all charges against Mohamed, who says he falsely confessed to a radioactive “dirty bomb” plot while being tortured in a Moroccan prison.
The judges’ ruling said: “We did not consider that a democracy governed by the rule of law would expect a court in another democracy to suppress a summary of the evidence contained in reports by its own officials ... relevant to allegations of torture and cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment, politically embarrassing though it might be.”
“We had no reason ... to anticipate there would be made a threat of the gravity of the kind made by the United States government that it would reconsider its intelligence sharing relationship,” it added.
Britain’s Foreign Office said intelligence relations with close ally the United States were vital to national security and relied on confidentiality being maintained.
“For it to be called into question would pose a serious and real risk to continuing close intelligence sharing with any government,” it said.
A legal charity which represents Mohamed called on the British and U.S. authorities to investigate the allegations.
Speaking in parliament, opposition Conservative politician David Davis called for the government to make a statement about the issue.
Mohamed has been on hunger strike since January 5 to protest at his continued confinement, one of his U.S. military lawyers, Air Force Lt. Col. Yvonne Bradley, said.
Additional reporting by Frank Prenesti and Jane Sutton; Editing by Alison Williams