Page last updated at 17:06 GMT, Friday, 6 February 2009

Tory pressure over 'torture' case

David Miliband
Mr Miliband told MPs there had been no specific threat to break off cooperation

Foreign Secretary David Miliband has been urged to clarify details of the case of a Guantanamo detainee at the centre of a row over torture claims.

The Tories say he needs to explain why he had not asked the new US government to allow intelligence material about the man's treatment to be published.

The High Court wanted to publish it but said the US had threatened to withdraw intelligence cooperation if it did so.

Mr Miliband said he was not prepared to lobby the US government on the issue.

The row revolves around Binyam Mohamed, 30, an Ethiopian national who had been in the UK since he was 15 but who was arrested in Pakistan in 2002 and later transferred to Guantanamo Bay.

'No threat'

Accused of conspiring with Al-Qaeda leaders to plan a series of terrorist attacks, he says evidence against him is based on confessions extracted by torture and ill treatment - claims denied by the US.

But a row erupted over intelligence material about his treatment, given by the US to the High Court, when two judges said they wanted to publish it but had been advised that the US had made a "threat ... that it would reconsider its intelligence sharing relationship".

They also said they had been informed by lawyers for the foreign secretary that the threat to withdraw co-operation remained, even under President Barack Obama's new administration

I am not going to join a lobbying campaign against the American government on this decision
David Miliband

But in a statement to MPs on Thursday, Foreign Secretary Mr Miliband said the word "threat" was the judges' and all the US authorities had done was "a simple affirmation of the facts of intelligence co-operation".

Asked whether he would approach the new administration, as there were new policies and new CIA personnel, to ask them to reconsider allowing the material to be published he said: : "I am not going to join a lobbying campaign against the American government on this decision. It is a decision that they have to make."

That statement has already prompted Mr Mohamed's lawyers to ask the High Court to look again at the case - saying they had been misled in their original ruling.

'Security concerns'

And on Friday William Hague wrote to Mr Miliband asking a series of questions about his statement - he asked the foreign secretary to clarify whether the intelligence issue had been raised when he met US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

He added: "On what basis was it possible for you to conclude that the new US administration was not prepared to change its position on this issue if the issue of intelligence sharing had not been raised with Washington?"

He also asked for clarification of the details of Mr Mohamed's return to the UK - which Mr Miliband said would be happening - and asked if "security concerns" previously expressed by the US government had been addressed.

Binyam Mohamed
Mr Mohamed, a British resident, claimed he was tortured

And he asked whether, as Mr Mohamed's exceptional leave to remain in the UK had lapsed in May 2004, he would have to make a new application to stay were he to arrive back.

A spokesman for Leigh Day & Co, which represents Mr Mohamed, said the fact Mr Miliband had not approached the new US administration, and no specific threat had been made, seemed "to undermine the whole basis of the court's reluctant decision to refuse to publish those details".

They have lodged an application with the High Court requesting the judgement be reopened.

Clive Stafford Smith, of legal action charity Reprieve, said: "It seems unfair for the British government to pretend that Obama has ratified the retrograde policies of Bush without even asking him."

Mr Mohamed has been held by the US at Guantanamo Bay since September 2004 and is the last detainee with an automatic right to return to the UK.

The US authorities dropped charges against him in October - Mr Miliband said British efforts to get him returned to the UK are being pursued "at the highest level".

The attorney general has been asked to investigate claims Mr Mohamed was tortured and British agents were complicit in it.

Miliband defends secrecy stance
05 Feb 09 |  Politics
Spotlight on special relationship
04 Feb 09 |  Politics
'No torture pressure' - Miliband
05 Feb 09 |  Politics
Ministers face torture pressure
04 Feb 09 |  Politics
Profile: Binyam Mohamed
04 Feb 09 |  UK
Guantanamo inmate charges dropped
21 Oct 08 |  Americas

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