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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 March, 2004, 14:30 GMT
Released Britons face uncertainty
By Finlo Rohrer
BBC News Online

Guantanamo Bay
Little is known of the conditions in which the men were held
The five Britons released from Guantanamo Bay face a bewildering and uncertain future as they seek to settle back into lives derailed by their arrest and detention.

Suspected by the US of involvement with either the Taleban or al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, there has already been speculation that the men will be offered large sums by newspapers keen for exclusives on life inside the infamous camps at Guantanamo Bay.

Two of the detainees have been free for 24 hours and three of them, all from Tipton, are said to have been sent to a safe house.

Although they have been convicted of no crimes and face no charges here, some may be unwilling to treat them as "innocent until proven guilty".

Dr Mohammed Naseem, chairman of Birmingham Central Mosque, is one who is sure of where he stands.

He told BBC News Online: "They will be taken like anybody who has been from home and come back. Inter-communal relations have been very good. I'm not worried that there's going to be some backlash. The communities have shown much more intelligence than the politicians believed.

It all depends on the men themselves, their inner strength
Paddy Hill
"They are not guilty at all of anything. It will be back to normal. They are just normal people who have been done an injustice. There will be more sympathy than anything else. They are entitled to an apology from both governments.

"The British legal system has shown its quality in doing in two days what the Americans took two years to do."

The problems the men will face are physical, psychological and social.

Mixed emotions

Paddy Hill, one of the Birmingham Six and now a campaigner over miscarriage of justice victims, said the men faced an "emotional rollercoaster" and would not get adequate help from the government to get jobs and any treatment they needed to readjust to life.

"They will be having a lot of mixed emotions initially. It will be relief to have been released from Guantanamo Bay, where by all accounts they were held in barbaric conditions and completely dehumanised.

"To be suddenly released will mean great elation but I've no doubt afterwards there will be the anger at what happened.

"They're being thrown into the spotlight of the world media. To some people this does more harm than good."

Mr Hill said even a relatively short periods of incarceration - such as the two years the men have been held - could leave people as "nervous emotional wrecks" and leave them with problems communicating with friends and relatives.

"It all depends on the men themselves, their inner strength. I've been out of prison 13 years and I've never spoken to my family about it."

'False imprisonment'

Human rights lawyer Geoffrey Bindman said the men had options for legal redress but all of them contained complications.

"It is difficult. Theoretically, they could bring a case in the US for compensation for wrongful arrest or false imprisonment.

"There may be an argument they should never have been arrested, that there was insufficient evidence even for suspicion.

Mr Bindman said US lawyers - who would take the case on a "no win, no fee" basis - could argue that it was wrong to have held the men for so long "purely for the purpose of questioning without any evidence of wrongdoing".

He said an indication by one of the released Britons that he would sue the British government as well as the US government was "a particularly interesting approach".

"The basis of that is that the British Government has participated in the wrongful arrest and false imprisonment because its officials were taking part in the interrogations and so on.

"The British Government would obviously deny it had had any role in the arrest or the detention. It would be a difficult line to pursue."

Guantanamo detainees have been released to other countries, with one suspect facing trial in Spain and others held in Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia.

In Denmark, Danish Algerian Slimane Hadj Abderrahmane was released at the end of February and has kept a low profile since, said Rebecca Engmann, news editor of the English language Copenhagen Post.

At the time of his detention, the Danish media nicknamed him the "Little Taleban", but more recently there has been fierce criticism of the country's foreign ministry after claims it had known for a year there was no evidence against him but not acted.

Ms Engmann added: "There have been interviews with members of his family and people who went to school with him.

"But he hasn't been seen, no statement to the press, no pictures of him, he is really lying low."

The five Guantanamo Britons may be tempted to do the same.

The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"For the first time in two years, they were free to be reunited with their families"


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