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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 March 2007, 17:20 GMT 18:20 UK
UK Guantanamo man 'to be freed'
Bisher al-Rawi
Mr al-Rawi had lived in the UK for nearly 20 years
A British resident is to be released from Guantanamo Bay, the Foreign Office has announced.

Bisher al-Rawi, an Iraqi national, has been held at the US detention camp in Cuba for almost five years on suspicion of links to terrorism.

In a statement, Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said it had been agreed with the US authorities that he would be returned to the UK shortly.

The move followed extensive discussions over security implications, she said.

"The UK will continue to take the necessary measures to maintain national and international security," Mrs Beckett added.

She said discussions with Americans had gone on for one year.

'Relieved'

Mr al-Rawi, a businessman from New Malden in south-west London, was arrested along with his Jordanian business partner, Jamil el-Banna, on a business trip to Gambia in 2002 on suspicion of links to terrorism.

Kingston and Surbiton MP Edward Davey, who has been campaigning on behalf of his constituent, welcomed the news.

"I am relieved that after nearly five years in prison without charge or trial, my constituent is now being released from Guantanamo Bay," he said.

Mr Davey said that everything he had learned from Mr al-Rawi's family, lawyers and government officials showed he was not and never had been a "threat to national or international security".

UK RESIDENTS AT GUANTANAMO*
Jamil el-Banna
Omar Deghayes
Shaker Abdur-Raheem Aamer
Binyam Mohammed al Habashi
Ahmed Errachidi
Ahmed Belbacha
Abdulnour Sameur
Mohammad al-Qadir
Saiid Farhi
*List of known detainees compiled by Reprieve

"Bisher's family have suffered hugely and I am utterly delighted for them that their loved one will soon be returning," he said.

His family issued a brief statement, saying: "We are obviously delighted Bisher is coming home but until he is actually back with us, we don't want to say anything else."

Amnesty International UK said Mr al-Rawi's release was a "huge relief", but said the UK had played a "shadowy role" in Mr Al-Rawi and Mr el-Banna's arrests, and urged an independent inquiry into any UK complicity with Guantanamo detentions.

"These men should also be entitled to reparation from the US for their unlawful imprisonment," said director Kate Allen.

The British government now have a clear moral duty to intervene on behalf of Jamil
Sarah Teather, MP

The group also urged the UK government to make "strong representations" for the return of at least seven other UK residents still held at the camp.

Zachary Katznelson, of UK charity Reprieve, visited Mr al-Rawi in Guantanamo last month.

"He has been in isolation now 13 months and it has taken its toll on him. But he was doing much better because the end was in sight and that was giving him strength," he said.

Mr al-Rawi reportedly came to England in 1985 after his father was arrested by Saddam Hussein's secret police.

He had lived in the UK for nearly 20 years. His immediate family are UK nationals, but he retained Iraqi citizenship.

There has been no signal that his friend, Mr el-Banna, will also be released.

In January, his 10-year-old son joined a Downing Street protest urging the prime minister to lobby for both men's release.

His MP, Sarah Teather, for Brent East, said: "Both have been detained and tortured with no respect for international law.

"The British government now have a clear moral duty to intervene on behalf of Jamil."




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