The War Profiteers - War Crimes, Kidnappings & Torture
March 23rd, 2009 - Plea Bargain Was Considered for British Detainee
By Raymond Bonner
New York Times
March 23, 2009
London - Details of negotiations on a highly restrictive plea bargain for a Guantánamo detainee were revealed in a legal document released by a British court on Monday.
The measures proposed by the United States included a prison term of at least 3 years more than the 7 he had already been detained, a gag order, an end to his efforts to obtain documents that might bolster his claims that he was tortured in C.I.A. custody, and an agreement not to file any lawsuits against the United States government or any of its officials.
The detainee, Binyam Mohamed, rejected the offer, and eventually all charges against him were dropped. Last month, he was released to Britain and is now free.
The document was prepared by the court last October but was not made public because, the court said, the rules of plea bargaining with the United States military commissions required confidentiality. His lawyers were not even allowed to say that a plea bargain was being discussed. With negotiations ended, the court said, it could release the document.
At one point, the document said, Mr. Mohamed agreed to plead “no defense” to charges of support for terrorism in exchange for a sentence not to exceed three years, which he would be allowed to serve time in Britain. The prosecutors rejected this, the court noted.
In a statement released Monday, a lawyer for Mr. Mohamed, Clive Stafford Smith, said his client would have pleaded guilty “to being the pope himself,” if it would have ended his ordeal.
Mr. Mohamed, who was born in Ethiopia, and moved to Britain as a teenager, was apprehended in Pakistan in April 2002 as he was trying to leave the country with a false British passport. He had been in Afghanistan and had undergone military training, which he said was to prepare him to fight in Chechnya.
But American officials initially said that he was preparing to carry out terrorist attacks in the United States. At one point, American officials said he had been part of a plot to detonate a “dirty bomb” in the United States.
He was held at the Bagram air base, where he says his torture began. A few months after his capture, according to American and British officials, he was secretly flown by the C.I.A. to Morocco. As part of the Bush administration’s rendition program, some terrorism suspects were transferred to countries where torture is known to be used. The C.I.A. has declined to say publicly where Mr. Mohamed was held and has denied that it ever engaged in or condoned torture.
Mr. Mohamed has said that he was in Morocco for 18 months, during which time his captors used scalpels to cut his chest and genitals.
“I was in agony, crying, trying desperately to suppress myself, but I was screaming,” Mr. Mohamed said earlier this month, in an interview with The Mail on Sunday two weeks ago.
“There was blood all over,” he added. “They cut all my private parts.”
They also tempted him with women, “naked or part naked,” Mr. Mohamed told his lawyer, Mr. Stafford Smith, during an interview when he was still in Guantánamo. Mr. Stafford Smith wrote down many of his interviews with his client, and they were subsequently cleared by military censors. Mr. Stafford Smith provided what he calls Mr. Mohammed’s “diary” to the Times.
On the day that Mr. Mohamed left Morocco, in the custody of what he said were American soldiers in black masks, they first cut off all his clothes, according to the diary.
Then a “white female with glasses” took pictures of his injuries, the diary says.
“She was one of the few Americans who ever showed me any sympathy,” he said in the diary. “When she saw the injuries I had she gasped. I could see the shock and horror in her eyes.”
His lawyers have filed lawsuits to obtain these photographs, as well as 42 other classified documents, which the British court said lend credence to Mr. Mohamed’s allegations.
External link: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/24/world/europe/24london.html