Lawyers for Guantanamo prisoner to get documents

AP News
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Posted: Dec 08, 2009 1:05 PM

The last British resident imprisoned at Guantanamo won the right Tuesday to see documents his lawyers believe will show that he was tortured. The British government immediately announced an appeal.

Judge Jeremy Sullivan ruled in favor of Shaker Aamer, a British resident born in Saudi Arabia and suspected by the American government of having links to the al-Qaida terrorist network.

His lawyers said they need to see the documents to prove that he was abused in order to discredit confessions that were made under duress.

"Our present view is that this matter is clearly very urgent." Sullivan said after hearing arguments in the Royal Courts of Justice in London. "If this information is to be of any use it has to be put in the claimant's hands as soon as possible."

The Foreign Office said the British government will appeal the ruling.

"We are disappointed by the court's decision," it said. "We will continue to argue strongly the point of principle involved in this case: That it is fundamental to the national interest of the United Kingdom that our intelligence and security services are able to operate without fear of having to disclose secret intelligence material."

The case focuses on Aamer, 42, who was born in Saudi Arabia but is a British resident whose wife and four children are British.

His lawyers claim his confessions were made only after he was tortured and subjected to degrading and inhumane treatment after his detention in Afghanistan in 2002. They maintain British agents were present while Aamer was abused while in U.S. custody.

No charges have been brought against Aamer.

Court papers claim that "there are strong grounds" to believe that British security and intelligence agencies were present at least twice during his detention in Afghanistan before he was transferred to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Lawyer Richard Hermer cited similarities between his treatment and the abuse suffered by Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopia-born British resident who was detained in Pakistan in 2002 and who claims he was repeatedly tortured in the presence of British agents. He was released from Guantanamo in February.

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Hermer said Aamer continues to be mistreated despite the change of presidential administrations in the United States.

"There has been no change," he said.

Clive Stafford Smith, who has represented Aamer in the United States, said that the British and American governments seem to working in unison to keep information about Aamer's treatment from being made public.

"It seems to be another big example of the British government working with the U.S. to hide their mutual wrongdoing," he said.

Although the Foreign Office opposes the release of the secret documents, it said it believed Aamer should be allowed to return to Britain.

"The decision on his future is entirely one for the United States but the U.S. authorities know well our outstanding request for his release and our offer to see him returned to the United Kingdom," the statement said.