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Tuesday, March 28, 2006 

The complicit behaviour of the security services in rendition.

The questions that remain over rendition are slowly but surely dwindling. There now seems little doubt that the security services are not entirely complicit in the rendition process which has seen terrorist suspects taken to states which practice torture for softening up. It seems difficult to believe that they did not know that UK airspace has been used by CIA and charter jets that have been involved in rendition. Indeed, it seems increasingly likely that they may well have been involved with some of the cases.
MI5 knew that two British residents who were seized and secretly flown to Guantánamo Bay were carrying harmless items when it tipped off the CIA that they were in possession of bomb parts.

The disclosure is contained in high court documents released last night revealing the full extent of the government's role in the US practice of "extraordinary rendition" - in this case, of Bisher al-Rawi and Jamil el-Banna, in 2002.

The two men were seized in Gambia after a tip-off from MI5. British security officials had earlier detained the men at Gatwick airport before releasing them.

Court documents show that their detailed travel arrangements were then given to a "foreign intelligence agency". The government does not deny this is a reference to the CIA.

In a telegram sent, apparently to the CIA, on November 1 2002, an MI5 officer said an "electronic device" which could be part of an improvised explosive device had been found on the men. But in a note to the Foreign Office 10 days later MI5 stated that the men had been released at Gatwick "after it was assessed that this item was a commercially available battery charger that had been modified by Bisher al-Rawi in order to make it more powerful".

There is no evidence that the assessment that the item was innocent was passed on to the CIA. One MI5 officer, known only as A in his witness statement, questioned the accuracy of a description of the battery charger as "harmless".

The disclosures come as a report today from the group Caged Prisoners claims evidence shows that Tony Blair, the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, and the leader of the house, Geoff Hoon, "misled" the Commons "over their knowledge and complicity in illegal acts of rendition".

It also accuses Britain's secret services of involvement in "interrogations of detainees where abuse and torture" were used in countries ranging from Morocco and Pakistan to Afghanistan and at Guantánamo Bay.
The full report from Cagedprisoners is available here.

* BINYAM MOHAMMED AL-HABASHI

Visited by MI6 agents while in prison in Karachi who told him he would be moved to Morocco. Upon arrival, MI5 agents supplied interrogators with information to ease the extraction of confessions. He remains in Guantanamo Bay.

* JAMAL AL-HARITH

Fell into the hands of US forces while imprisoned by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Despite promises to help establish his innocence, the British Embassy in Kabul permitted his rendition to Guantanamo Bay.

* JAMIL EL BANNA,

BISHER AL-RAWI

Picked up by authorities in the Gambia on the advice of the British and subsequently rendered to Guantanamo. Still imprisoned.

* MOAZZAM BEGG

Regularly questioned by British authorities in Pakistan and Afghanistan, who allowed rendition.

* MARTIN MUBANGA

British intelligence supplied evidence leading to his arrest in Lusaka. Questioned regularly by British agents. MI5 still allowed US forces to render him to Guantanamo.

* OMAR DEGHAYES

Interrogated by a British officer by the name of "Andrew" in Pakistan, who promised to return him home if he co-operated. Despite complying, he was sent to Guantanamo, where he remains.

* RICHARD BELMAR

Held in Pakistan where requests from the British Consulate to visit him fell on deaf ears. By the time access was granted, Belmar was on his way to Guantanamo. M15 had been permitted full access from day one.

* THE TIPTON THREE: SHAFIQ RASUL, RHUHEL AHMED, ASIF IQBAL

Held by US forces in Afghanistan, where they were questioned by British officials before being rendered.

* SHAKER AAMER

Interrogated by MI5 and MI6 in Kandahar. On hunger strike in Guantanamo.

* TAREK DERGOUL

Questioned in Afghanistan by British forces. Believing they intended to help, he complied. He was rendered to Guantanamo.
Government ministers have known about the behaviour of the security services in the cases of the men above. Some of the above may well be guilty of terrorist offences, but if so, why have we abdicated any responsibility we had towards them? Why have we not attempted to repatriate UK residents when the other British citizens were brought back from Guantanamo? It makes repeated denials from the likes of Jack Straw and Tony Blair that the UK has not in any way been involved in rendition flights which used UK airspace and airbases more and more difficult to believe. If MI5 has known about the flights, which seems increasingly likely, have they informed ministers that they had been landing here, just to refuel or not? If not, why not, and if they have, why has the government repeatedly attempted to move the argument on, as the leaked memo to the New Statesman suggested? What is so difficult about being honest about what has been going on, if the flights that have landed here have not been carrying kidnapped detainees? All the government silence does is increase speculation and make us believe the worst.

On a day when Jack Straw tells us that international terrorism is the biggest threat we face, why can the government not realise that the silence that surrounds their own actions does nothing to help the situation? Tell us the truth and be damned, or kept silent and be damned anyway.

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