On the trail of torture

UPDATE: Binyam Mohamed returned to the UK on February 23, 2009

(Published in the Sunday Times, Feb 8, 2009)
by Stephen Grey and David Leppard

Prisoner No 1458 at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, woke up each day last week in his solitary cell and waited for the inevitable: the arrival of a team of guards to take him down the corridor in shackles to be painfully force fed through a tube.
This was not another attempt to extract a confession, but an attempt to keep Binyam Mohamed alive. The 30-year-old former resident of Notting Hill, west London, was continuing his hunger strike against what he sees as failed promises to set him free. When he last saw his lawyer two weeks ago, his arms, she said, stuck out of his 6ft body “like little thin twigs”.
Although previously accused by US authorities of plotting a terrorist attack on American soil, Mohamed has not been charged with any crime. His former military prosecutor declared a month ago that he presented no threat to either America or Britain.
After losing almost 50lb in weight, and wasting further by the day, he was probably in no state to be told or even to care that two High Court judges in London last Wednesday were appealing for the public release of “powerful evidence” that might help prove his astonishing claims of mistreatment to be true. The issues at stake, said the British judges, were nothing short of the lofty interests of “law, free speech and democratic accountability”.
Involved shocking allegations of extreme mental and physical torture at the behest of America’s CIA, it is a case that has threatened to embarrass the new administration of President Barack Obama, whose inaugural speech included a pledge to halt such activities, as well as to shed an unwelcome spotlight on what exactly the British government knew and kept secret about potential crimes committed by its closest ally. Continue reading On the trail of torture

Abandoned by Britain, the interpreter fleeing from Iraqi death squads

By STEPHEN GREY – first published Mail on Sunday on 11th November 2007

A senior British Army officer has hit out at the lack of protection given to his former translator after the man was forced to go on the run when Iraqi insurgents murdered his brother-in-law and kidnapped his wife.

He says the Iraqi interpreter, who also worked for the Foreign Office, was turned away by British officials and told: “Make your own way to safety.”

Last night, Lieutenant Colonel Nicholas Mercer, who was head of the Army’s legal service in Iraq, said Britain had an obligation to help Haider Samad.

He said: “We owe this man an enormous debt – we can’t abandon him and his family.”

Lt Col Mercer said Samad had been crucial to his work in establishing law and order after the British took over in southern Iraq. “We couldn’t have done it without him,” he said.

The news comes despite Foreign Secretary David Miliband’s promise to protect former employees of UK Forces in Iraq and allow them to settle in Britain. Continue reading Abandoned by Britain, the interpreter fleeing from Iraqi death squads

Straw wanted ‘drug-smuggling’ informant freed

March 04, 2007, Sunday Times.
Stephen Grey

JACK STRAW, the former foreign secretary, instructed diplomats to lobby for the release of a convicted criminal described by police and customs intelligence reports as a leading smuggler of heroin into Britain.
Foreign Office telegrams ordered efforts to secure “the immediate release” from a German jail in 2001 of Andreas Antoniades who worked for years as a paid informer for Customs. At the time, he was wanted in Greece on drugs smuggling charges.
Although police or customs informers routinely receive rewards in cash, or reduced sentences if they are prosecuted, Straw’s attempt to help Antoniades avoid trial appears at odds with Customs’ code of practice, which states: “Informants have no licence to commit crime.”
Antoniades, who has never been convicted of a drug offence, was released shortly after the Straw telegrams and has since moved to Dubai. Continue reading Straw wanted ‘drug-smuggling’ informant freed