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Binyam Mohamed

Volume 488: debated on Tuesday 24 February 2009

Mr.Binyam Mohamed returned to the UK yesterday, 23 February, following his release from Guantanamo Bay. A team of Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) officials, including a doctor, met with Mr. Mohamed on 14 February and confirmed there were no immediate medical concerns that would prevent him from travelling to the UK. The same team, along with officers of the Metropolitan Police Service, accompanied Mr. Mohamed on his return to the UK. The FCO was in close contact with Mr. Mohamed’s family and legal representatives to inform them of his return.

This is the direct result of our request for his release and return, and follows intensive negotiations with the US Government over the past 18 months, since my request to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on 7 August 2007. These negotiations included pressing for and securing the disclosure by the US to Mr. Mohamed’s lawyers of the 42 documents, which were the subject of a judicial review in the English courts, that could be used for Mr. Mohamed’s defence. Further public disclosure of these documents remains a matter for the US Administration. In this regard we welcome the US Attorney General’s order for a review of all the assertions of the state secrets privilege in the US Courts.

The Government abhor torture and do not order or condone it. We have raised with the US allegations of mistreatment put to us by UK nationals or residents currently or formerly detained at Guantanamo Bay, including Mr. Mohamed. The question of possible criminal wrongdoing that arose in Mr. Mohamed’s case was referred by the Home Secretary to the Attorney General for her to consider. This was, as the court acknowledged, the proper legal process.

Mr. Mohamed’s return does not constitute a commitment by the Home Secretary that he may remain permanently in the UK. His immigration status is being reviewed following his return. As always, the Government’s top priority is national security, and should any steps be necessary, we will take them.

Mr. Mohamed is the first Guantanamo detainee to be released under President Obama’s Administration. We have welcomed, and strongly support, the Obama Administration’s aim to close Guantanamo. Our request for Shaker Aamer’s return to the UK remains and we stand ready to share our experience in receiving former detainees with European member states, and others, as they consider how they can assist towards closure.