Page last updated at 02:31 GMT, Friday, 13 February 2009

'I thought he was a terrorist'

By Trevor Timpson
BBC News

Binyam Mohamed's US military lawyer has her monthly appointment to see him at Guantanamo Bay later this month.

But Lieutenant Colonel Yvonne Bradley says of the last British resident held by the US at its Cuban base: "I hope never to see him again in Guantanamo."

Lt-Col Yvonne Bradley
The one person who has always told me a consistent account of what happened has been Binyam
Lt Col Yvonne Bradley

She is speaking in London after the British government said UK officials and a Metropolitan Police doctor would see him.

"My biggest fear is that I have to walk back into that cell at Guantanamo and explain to Mr Mohamed why he's still sitting there," she told the BBC.

Looking back to her first meeting with him she said: "I don't know who was more scared.

"You have to realise, I'm a soldier, I'd heard Rumsfeld... I was a true believer. I thought 'This guy's a terrorist; we're going to give him a fair trial'.

"I had done some heavy hitting criminal work" she points out, dealing with convicted killers, but she was "concerned, walking into a cell with someone that someone had told me was a terrorist, the worst of the worst, and I truly believed that."

Binyam Mohamed, she adds, had a right to feel worse: "I walk in there and say I'm your attorney; you've got no say in this... and my big boss is George Bush who put you in here."

"But I can tell you after that first meeting with Mr Mohamed I walked out of that cell - and I was thinking: 'What are we doing?' - because if Binyam Mohamed is the worst of the worst that we are trying, we have the wrong people.

"He came over quiet and credible. I've represented many individuals before and they always say they're innocent...

"But Binyam wasn't like that. Everything he said, the way he said it, his body language. I could tell he was concerned and distanced from me because he didn't know if this was part of a disturbing game of interrogators.

Air Force service

"The one person who has always told me a consistent account of what happened has been Binyam," she insists. He gives detailed accounts of his ordeal.

Of his "rendition" flights, for instance, he gave details which could be verified, says Lt Col Bradley, adding: "You can't make that stuff up."

After six years as a regular officer in the judge-advocate general's branch of the US Air Force, Lt Col Bradley worked for a further seven years for an organisation providing legal representation to death row inmates.

She now has a law practice near Philadelphia, but that is on hold, she says, while she pursues Mr Mohamed's case.

A reserve US Air Force officer, she volunteered following an appeal for military lawyers to take up the cases of Guantanamo detainees in 2005.

Lt-Col Yvonne Bradley
Lt Col Bradley is a US air force reserve officer

When she first saw him, he was already in poor condition, after years in Guantanamo and a period during which he was held incommunicado, when he says he was tortured and ill-treated in Pakistan, Morocco and Afghanistan.

Now, says Lt Col Bradley, his condition is critical.

He is on hunger strike in protest at the failure of the Americans to release him, though terrorism charges against him have been dropped.

If Binyam Mohamed is not "the worst of the worst" as she originally feared, she says Guantanamo is easily the worst prison she has ever seen - and she has visited many.

"I've done criminal work for 20 years. I've been on death row. I've been in local prisons, state prisons, federal prisons... I've never come across the conditions, the attitude, the way they handle anything at Guantanamo Bay."

Soiled hands

Normally in prisons the rules are established and well known, she says. But in three years of going to Guantanamo "I don't think I've ever had a visit where any procedure, any policy was ever the same."

She speaks of one occasion when her client came to a meeting with her, with his hands soiled with excrement.

A guard bowed his head and murmured: "'Ma'am, your client has been living in such conditions for weeks'," she says. "And that's the only comment I ever got."

Guantanamo Bay prison camp (7 December 2006)
Guantanamo is the worst jail lawyer Yvonne Bradley has ever seen

If he is released, will there still be reckonings to be paid? Mr Mohamed's ordeal, says his lawyer, his reported "rendition" by the CIA from Pakistan to Morocco and back the Afghanistan, and the treatment he suffered, are "the issue that's not going to go away".

"Someday, somebody is going to have to be open and honest about it," she says.

What about Britain? Mr Mohamed was questioned by British intelligence and security officials in Pakistan following his arrest in 2002. His whereabouts were apparently unknown to the British authorities for two years after that.

"Somebody should have cared about him back then," says Lt Col Bradley of the British. But of the current efforts by the British to get him released, she says: "We are thankful for that."

Of her London trip she says: "I'm extremely happy that the foreign secretary himself sat down and spoke with us."

"All Mr Mohamed wants to do is come back to the UK and lead a quiet life," she insists. "Clearly, in many conversations we have had he considers this his home - and respects it very highly. He holds it in high esteem. That's why it's such a disappointment that he's still there."

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