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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Tortured while MI5 left the room: Briton's claim after 7/7 attacks

British Interior Minister Jacqui Smith faces legal action over Rahman's allegations of torture [GETTY/GALLO]
Man brought up in south Wales sues home secretary over UK's alleged role in his detention in Bangladesh


WHEN THE Bangladeshi police came to take away Jamil Rahman, he says that among the armed officers surrounding the home of his wife's family were a couple of incongruous figures. Wearing balaclavas that left only their eyes showing were two men who, according to Rahman, towered over the police.

While Rahman, a British citizen who grew up in south Wales, immediately suspected the men were European, he says he could not be sure of the colour of their skin as they were wearing gloves. He said there are witnesses to what happened next: the Bangladeshi police picked out Rahman, asked the masked men if this was the individual who was to be detained, and the two men nodded. Rahman was then beaten, and he and his wife driven away.

The events he describes happened on 1 December 2005 and, according to an account by Rahman that forms the basis of civil proceedings being brought against the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, it was the start of an ordeal that would last more than two years.

The couple were taken to the local headquarters of the directorate general of forces intelligence (DGFI), one of the country's main intelligence agencies, and held in separate cells. After being stripped, beaten and told that his wife would be raped and murdered and her body burned, Rahman says he agreed to make a lengthy tape-recorded confession to a number of terrorist offences, including masterminding the suicide bomb attacks on London's transport network the previous July.

He says he was then questioned by two well-spoken Britons by the names of Liam and Andrew, who said they were MI5 officers. When he told them he had been tortured and had made false confessions, and asked for their help, he says the two said they "needed a break". Andrew is said to have added: "They haven't done a very good job on you." Rahman says he was then beaten, had extreme pressure exerted on his testicles, and was told his wife was to be raped.

When the questioning resumed, according to Rahman, Andrew said: "That's good, you've learned your lesson." Rahman then made a series of admissions that he and his lawyers say were false. He says he was also shown a number of maps that he was instructed to copy on to pieces of paper, which were taken away by the two.

Rahman says that after being interrogated for almost three weeks he and his wife were released, but he was told that he must reside in his wife's family's village and not talk to anyone about his experiences. He says he was told that his calls would be monitored and that he was specifically instructed not to contact any lawyers or members of the media, or the UK high commission in Dhaka.

Rahman, a graduate and former civil servant, had settled in Bangladesh that year after marrying a woman from Sylhet, in the north-east of the country. On his release there his passport was withheld and not returned by the high commission for two and a half years. During that period, Rahman says, he was frequently summoned for interrogations by MI5 and Bangladeshi officials.

He says he was shown hundreds of photographs, including surveillance photographs of friends in the UK, whom he was asked to identify. If he did not co-operate, he says, the two British officers would leave the room, during which time he would be beaten. He says that during these interrogations he was accused of "masterminding" the July 2005 suicide bomb attacks in London.

On one occasion, he says, he was ordered to bring his wife with him, and she too says she was threatened with rape. Rahman says that senior Bangladeshi agents who were supervising his mistreatment would give instructions that his head was not to be marked and that no bones were to be broken.

During many of the interrogations, he says, the MI5 officers would ask him: "We're not torturing you, are we." He would confirm that they were not, and on one occasion he was told to repeat his answer in a louder voice, which he did. Rahman believes that these exchanges were being recorded.

He alleges he was also questioned by three men who identified themselves as Scotland Yard officers, and by an American woman who called herself Mary. He says the police wanted him to give evidence against another man in a UK trial, and alleges that MI5 said it would arrange for others to give evidence against him if he refused.

Rahman returned to the UK in May last year after his passport was returned by British consular officials in Dhaka. He embarked on legal proceedings once his wife and son were able to join him last week. The couple's four-month-old boy remains in Bangladesh, however, as they have not received the British passport for which they applied 12 weeks ago. They say they are deeply concerned for his safety.

Four years of reports
The Guardian has been reporting for almost four years on allegations that British intelligence officers have been colluding in the torture of ¬British citizens during counter-terrorism ¬investigations, and on the evidence that supports a number of the claims.

August 2005 The first report that ¬Binyam Mohamed was questioned by a British intelligence officer between torture sessions, and that his torturers used information supplied by UK. Last year MI5 confirmed this to be true ¬during high court proceedings.

November 2006 Salahuddin Amin tells the Old Bailey he was questioned by MI5 in between torture at the hands of Pakistani agents.

April 2008 The Guardian discloses that MI5 is ¬accused of outsourcing the ¬torture of three more Britons to ¬Pakistani intelligence agents.

July 2008 Three more cases of alleged complicity in torture reported. One victim is a London doctor tortured for two months in a building opposite the UK deputy high commission in Karachi. He was released without charge.

September 2008 Manchester crown court hears how MI5 drew up questions for Pakistani intelligence agents to put to British terrorism suspect Rangzieb Ahmed. Later he had three fingernails removed by Pakistani interrogators.

18 March 2009 Gordon Brown tells the Commons that Britain's official interrogation policy is to be rewritten and then made public. #

First published in The Guardian, London, May 26, 2009-05-28

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