Page last updated at 13:29 GMT, Thursday, 11 March 2004

'Delight' at release of Guantanamo men

Ruhal Ahmed and Shafiq Rasul
Ruhal Ahmed, left, and Shafiq Rasul are in a safe house with Asif Iqbal

Lawyers and families of the freed Guantanamo Bay detainees say they are "absolutely delighted" at the men's release from British custody.

The remaining three suspects, all of Tipton, West Midlands, were freed without charge on Wednesday night - the day after returning from Cuba.

Their local MP said Shafiq Rasul, 26, Ruhal Ahmed, 23 and Asif Iqbal, 22, were being taken to a safe house.

Their release sparked calls for the other UK detainees in Cuba to be freed.

British law has shown its merit and I'm very proud of it
Dr Mohammed Naseem
Birmingham Central Mosque

The three men were the last of five to be freed by anti-terrorist police, after Tarek Dergoul, 26, from east London, was let go on Wednesday and Jamal Udeen, from Manchester, on Tuesday night.

The US released the men from prison two years after their arrest in Afghanistan on suspicion of terrorism.

Four other Britons - Feroz Abbasi, 23, Richard Belmar, 23, and Martin Mubanga, 29, all from London, plus Moazzam Begg, 36, from Birmingham - are still detained at Guantanamo Bay.

A relative of Ruhal Ahmed, who did not wish to be named, said: "We are delighted that he has been released."

Pleasant surprise

The Tipton men's MP, Adrian Bailey, said he understood they would be taken to a safe house at a secret location.

Louise Christian, lawyer for Mr Dergoul, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme she was delighted he had been released "without a blemish on his character".

Louise Christian
Mr Dergoul's lawyer called for the other detainees to be freed

"But what I'm now thinking of is the other four people who've been left behind.

"Their families must be thinking... that it should have been their family members who were brought back as well - and that the British Government have betrayed their promise to bring all nine British citizens back again."

Speaking in Tipton, the chairman of Birmingham Central Mosque, Dr Mohammed Naseem, condemned the way they had been treated by the US Government.

But he said he was pleased the five in British custody had now been released.

"I must admit I was surprised because I have lost faith in the government, but I think that British law has shown its merit and I'm very proud of it," he said.

Jamal Udeen

Steven Watt, a British lawyer who represented Mr Rasul and Mr Iqbal in the US, said their release was not surprising and thought they would claim compensation.

"It is what we expected to happen. I think what happened in terms of them arriving at a military base in the UK and taken into custody was just window dressing for the benefit of the US Government.

"They have spent two-and-a-half years languishing in that prison [Guantanamo] - it is a complete travesty of justice.

"I think they are owed something by the US Government, but whether they will ever be able to get it is another thing."

Mr Dergoul's publicist, Max Clifford, told BBC Breakfast News he had spoken to his client's brother, Halid.

He said Mr Dergoul had told Halid that "mentally he was bearing up, but physically he wasn't very good and that he was having great difficulty walking".

video and audio news
The BBC's George Eykyn
"Police reserve the right to re-interview the men"

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific