The road to Guantanamo
Three Midland men who were held captive by the US for more than two years have accused America and Britain of a catalogue of abuse.
The men, all in their 20s, claim they were beaten, shackled and deprived of sleep during their detention in Afghanistan and at a US camp in Cuba, the American detention camp that has been vigorously condemned by notable public figures, law lords and the Court of Appeal as a ‘legal black hole’.
The men, who were released without charge in March 2004, said their complaints to Foreign Office officials were ignored. Shafiq Rasul, Ruhal Ahmed and Asif Iqbal, known as ‘The Tipton Three’, first spoke about their release at a secret location in southern England, disclosing a full account of life inside the camp in Cuba.
CAUTION: some graphic scenes!
Mr Ahmed had claimed that after his capture in Afghanistan in November 2001, he was interrogated by a man who identified himself as an SAS officer, while an American guard pointed a gun at his head and threatened to shoot.
After hundreds of interrogation sessions between them, carried out by the CIA, FBI, Defence Intelligence Agency, MI5 and MI6, America eventually admitted that the accusations that the three were terrorists who supported al-Qaeda had no foundation whatsoever.
In public, the British Attorney General Lord Goldsmith has spoken of his constant pressure on America to improve both physical and legal conditions, urging them not to deny terror suspects a fair trial. But the released prisoners told how interrogators, in sessions lasting many hours, tried repeatedly to extract information they did not have about Islamic groups in Britain and their supposed links with al-Qaeda.
The three men said they eventually wrongfully confessed to appearing in a video with al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden and Mohammed Atta, one of the September 11 hijackers. Mr Rasul claims he was working in a Curry’s electronics store in the West Midlands at the time the video was filmed.
Among other disclosures, the three men revealed:
- The existence of a secret super-maximum security facility outside the main part of Guantanamo’s Camp Delta known as Camp Echo, where prisoners are held in tiny cells in solitary confinement 24-hours a day, with a military police officer permanently stationed outside each cell door.
- That they endured three months of solitary confinement in Camp Delta’s isolation block last summer after they were wrongly identified by the Americans as having been pictured in a video tape of a meeting in Afghanistan between Osama bin Laden and the leader of the 11 September hijackers Mohamed Atta. Ignoring their protests that they were in Britain at the time, the Americans interrogated them so relentlessly that eventually all three falsely confessed.
- That their first interrogations by British investigators – from both MI5 and the SAS – took place in December 2001 and January 2002 when they were still being held at a detention camp in Afghanistan. Guns were held to their heads during their questioning in Afghanistan by American soldiers, and physical abuse and beatings were rife. The men said that as far as they could see, there were few if any genuine terrorists at Guantanamo Bay: perhaps at worst, a few mullahs who had been loyal to the Taliban.
Whitehall security sources confirmed that MI5 has had regular access to prisoners at Guantanamo Bay: ‘I can say that the purpose of our being given access to detainees in US custody is to gather information relevant to British national security,’ said one source.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said: “The British Army follows the rules laid out in the Geneva Convention and soldiers are told to follow that.”
The Road to Guantanamo: BBC Review
2 March 2006
Using terror to fight terror
26 February 2006
Tipton three complain of beatings
14 March 2004