Page last updated at 16:18 GMT, Thursday, 30 July 2009 17:18 UK

Binyam breaks silence at launch

By Steve Swann
Home affairs reporter, BBC News


Binyam Mohamed: "It's very hard to fit into society"

A former detainee of Guantanamo Bay who is taking legal action against the British authorities says he is not doing it to win compensation.

Speaking in public for the first time since his return from Guantanamo, Binyam Mohamed asked: "How much money can you give me that would make me forget the seven years I have gone through?"

He was appearing at the launch of the Guantanamo Justice Centre, set up by former detainees at the US military facility to help others released from the camp.

The Metropolitan Police are investigating whether to bring charges against British officials who, it is alleged, colluded in Mr Mohamed's mistreatment in US custody.

Mr Mohamed told the public meeting of his difficulties in readjusting to life after Guantanamo.

Constant darkness

At times struggling to control his emotions, he said: "You have to live it to explain it. It's very hard. If I enter a room and the light turns off for some reason I wonder if I'm back in the 'dark prison'."

That was a reference to a CIA facility in Afghanistan where Mr Mohamed said he was kept in constant darkness and bombarded with loud music.

Mr Mohamed was arrested trying to leave Pakistan on a false passport in early 2002.

What remains is every time you see a rope, you always go back to the time when you were hung
Binyam Mohamed

Accused of attending terrorist training camps and a plot to set off a "dirty" bomb in the US, he described how in an early interrogation in Karachi his US captors told him: "You are guilty until you are proven innocent."

The US authorities eventually dropped the allegations against Mr Mohamed, who now lives at liberty in the UK, though he said: "I cannot fit into society.

"What the world doesn't understand is that most people love to hear about torture stories.

"Someone was hanged here. Blood here, blood there. What remains is every time you see a rope, you always go back to the time when you were hung. That doesn't go away."

He hailed the opening of the Guantanamo Justice Centre as an important event for the former detainees, saying: "We are here and we are living in a torture world."

He said the centre was not a political organisation.

"From my point of view, there's a mess that has been done and someone has to fix it," he explained.

'Whitewash torture'

The centre, which has offices in London and Geneva, will work with former detainees scattered across the world.

It will offer financial and medical support, and press for the release of those who are still held at Guantanamo Bay.

Ramzi Kassem, who represents detainees at Guantanamo and the US facility at Bagram Bay in Afghanistan, also spoke at the meeting.

He described those held there as the "victims of an ill-conceived policy" and criticised the Obama administration for retaining the military commissions system introduced by his predecessor George Bush.

"They only exist for one reason and that's to whitewash torture," he said, adding that Bagram holds about 600 prisoners who are denied the right to challenge their detention in court.

Earlier this year the US Justice Department argued that allowing such legal challenges "would divert the military's attention and resources at a critical time for operations in Afghanistan".

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