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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 February, 2004, 19:02 GMT
Saudi Britons seek to clear names
Britons jailed in S Arabia
The men were accused of a series of terrorist bombings
Seven British men jailed in Saudi Arabia have launched a bid to clear their names and told of the torture they claim they suffered in prison.

Six of the men spent two years in prison after being convicted over bomb attacks in 2000 which killed Briton Christopher Rodway and an American.

Despite being freed they have not been cleared by the British government.

Three of the men are suing Saudi officials over their experience while the Saudis deny the men were tortured.

At a packed press conference in London, the men produced medical evidence of the torture they say they suffered at the hands of their captors.

This included evidence of beatings on the soles of their feet, sleep deprivation and attacks to the body with an axe.

'Turf war'

"The pain was excruciating to the point where dying was preferable to living," said 48-year-old former detainee Sandy Mitchell, of Glasgow.

"It was the fact that I was innocent and my prayers and that the truth would get out that kept me going."

The Saudi government has vehemently denied the men were tortured into confessing to the car bombing campaign.

Sandy Mitchell
The pain was excruciating to the point where dying was preferable to living
Detainee Sandy Mitchell

It blamed the bombings on a "turf war" connected to ex-pat alcohol dealers but they are widely believed to be the work of Islamic extremists.

Geoffrey Bindman, the lawyer representing Mr Mitchell, Les Walker and British-Canadian Bill Sampson, said he could not believe the men were still tainted with the crime.

"I find it extraordinary that the government has not acknowledged the innocence of these men, nor has it acknowledged that they have been tortured," he said.

The three are suing two Saudi Arabian interrogators, the deputy governor of the prison where they were held and the Saudi government's minister of the interior for damages in the High Court.

They will soon be joined in their case by fellow former prisoners James Cottle, James Lee, Peter Brandon and Glenn Ballard - who was jailed for 10 months but not charged.

Mr Mitchell and Mr Sampson were considered the main perpetrators of the bombings and sentenced to death by partial beheading and crucifixion.

Detailed examinations

Mr Sampson, who lives in Penrith, said all the detainees had struggled to cope since returning home.

He said: "It is hard to find work when you are a convicted murderer and terrorist.

""The memories of the brutality to which we were subjected are quite difficult."

Mr Cottle, from Urmston, Greater Manchester, claims he was beaten in the face and the body with an axe, which caused severe bruising but no open wounds or fractures and beaten violently on the soles of his feet.

All the other detainees claim to have suffered a similar experience.

Mr Walker, 57, from the Wirral, said members of the public had been very sympathetic to his case and believed his side of the story.

Mr Mitchell revealed that he had set up a meeting with the widow of the man who was killed in the bombings in Saudi Arabia.

An eighth detainee - Ron Jones - is currently fighting his case at the Court of Appeal in London.

The men said they were desperate to clear their names because although some were granted clemency, none was pardoned before being released.

They say they have been forced to take legal action after letters to Crown Prince Abdullah and requests to meet the Saudi Ambassador in London were ignored.




SEE ALSO:
Men held in Saudi to sue captors
24 Feb 04  |  Middle East
Saudis deny torture claim
17 Aug 03  |  UK
Scot tells of Saudi 'torture'
08 Sep 03  |  Scotland
Freed Briton 'considered suicide'
08 Sep 03  |  Merseyside


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