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Documents show detainee was abused in US custody

Documents show detainee was abused in US custody

A British resident was beaten, shackled and threatened while in U.S. custody in Pakistan in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, according to a newly published summary of intelligence reports sent from the CIA to Britain's MI5 spy agency.
The information, released by a court Wednesday over the objections of the British government, shows that British officials knew as early as 2002 about the treatment of Ethiopian-born Binyam Mohamed _ one of hundreds of young Muslim men scooped up around the world at the time.
The White House said the ruling would make intelligence sharing with Britain more difficult in the future.
The summary adds to growing evidence of Mohamed's mistreatment during his seven years in American custody. In November, a U.S. district judge in Washington found evidence of even harsher abuse while Mohamed was held in Morocco for two years before he was eventually moved to Guantanamo Bay and charged with plotting with al-Qaida to bomb American apartment buildings.
In 2008, when Mohamed was facing a military trial at Guantanamo, his lawyers sued the British government for intelligence documents they said could prove that evidence against him had been gathered under torture.
The charges were later dropped, and in February 2009 he was sent back to Britain.
After his release, the lawsuit became a larger battle for access to information involving The Associated Press, the BBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post and other media organizations.
The British government argued that releasing the information could harm trans-Atlantic intelligence cooperation.
But three of Britain's most senior judges ruled Wednesday that key information should be released, in part because it was not "genuinely secret material" since other details of Mohamed's abuse had been made public in the U.S. court.
The newly released information is a seven-paragraph summary of U.S intelligence reports delivered to MI5. It describes CIA intelligence information given to British spies about Mohamed's treatment during interrogations by the Americans in May 2002 in Pakistan, where he was arrested.
According to the summary, Mohamed, now 31, was subjected to "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the United States authorities," including sleep deprivation, shackling and threats resulting in mental stress and suffering.
The summary was written by judges at an earlier hearing who had seen the secret CIA intelligence. It was blanked out of court rulings at the government's request.
In Britain, the ruling reignited debate about whether the government had colluded in torture. Shami Chakrabarti, director of the rights group Liberty, said the newly released information "shows the British authorities knew far more than they let on about Binyam Mohamed and how he was tortured in U.S. custody."
"Our hands are very dirty indeed," she said.
Foreign Secretary David Miliband insisted Britain "firmly opposes torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."
He said Mohamed's treatment went against British principles, but was not carried out by Britain.
Miliband said the government had fought for the information to be kept secret not because of its content but to defend the principle that intelligence shared between allies must remain confidential. He said "absolute trust" between close allies was vital to national security.
Miliband said the Mohamed case had been "at the highest level in the United States," and that he had spoken to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton about the ruling.
White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said the U.S. was "deeply disappointed" with the British court's judgment.
"We shared this information in confidence and with certain expectations," LaBolt said. "As we warned, the court's judgment will complicate the confidentiality of our intelligence-sharing relationship with the U.K., and it will have to factor into our decision-making going forward."
Britain's close relationship with the United States in fighting terrorism after the Sept. 11 attacks has been deeply divisive here and has continuing repercussions for the government.
British officials have denied accusations they colluded in extraordinary rendition _ the transfer of terror suspects to a foreign nation for imprisonment and interrogation without formal charges or trial.
But the government has conceded its Indian Ocean territory of Diego Garcia was used as a stopover for rendition flights. It also is being sued by 12 former terror detainees, including Mohamed, who accuse the security services of "aiding and abetting" their extraordinary rendition, unlawful imprisonment and torture.
Britain is signatory to the U.N. Convention Against Torture, and any accusation of involvement by Britain's spies in wrongdoing is highly sensitive.
In a letter sent to the judges before publication of their ruling, government lawyer Jonathan Sumption demanded they remove from an initial draft passages highly critical of the MI5, including allegations it misled politicians about Mohamed's case and does not respect human rights.
The passages do not appear in the final ruling, prompting lawyers for the media and civil liberties groups to accuse the government of trying to water down the judges' criticism.
In the United States, the issue of how to handle terror suspect remains heated.
President Barack Obama has spoken out on numerous occasions against the use of enhanced interrogation techniques employed during the Bush administration and has banned what he has called torture. But he and his administration have come under criticism from across the political spectrum over the handling of terrorist suspects.
Human rights groups complain that the administration has not made good on Obama's pledge to close Guantanamo within a year of his taking office. Some groups have alleged that flights of prisoners to secret torture facilities also continue.
Conservative lawmakers, meanwhile, have railed against the administration's decision to try accused Christmas Day airline bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab as a civilian and not an "enemy combatant." Republicans argue that terrorists should be tried in military tribunals where other Guantanamo Bay detainees will be judged.
The details of Mohamed's abuse in Morocco were made public during a hearing about another Guantanamo detainee, Farhi Saaed Bin Mohammed.
In a ruling in the District Court for the District of Columbia in November, Judge Gladys Kessler said Mohamed had been tortured over a period of two years while being interviewed by FBI and CIA agents.
She said Mohamed was beaten with a leather strap, subjected to mock execution, kept in darkness, deprived of sleep, drugged, hung by his wrists and "cut on the chest and then on the penis and the testicles with a scalpel (about once a month for over a year)."
She said the U.S. government "does not challenge or deny the accuracy of (Mohamed)'s story of brutal treatment."
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Associated Press Writers David Stringer in London and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report, as did AP London Bureau Chief Paisley Dodds.
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