A lawyer for an Ethiopian prisoner in the U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who claims that he was tortured when his interrogation was outsourced to Morocco, is asking the British government to help preserve alleged CIA photos that show how he was treated.
Binyam Mohamed, 27, claims through his lawyer and in an affidavit filed with the U.S. Supreme Court that U.S. forces turned him over for questioning to Morocco, where interrogators sliced his chest and penis with a scalpel during 18 months there in 2002 and 2003. He was transferred to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in September 2004.
Late Sunday, his attorney wrote British Foreign Secretary David Milliband asking that he intervene to preserve evidence, since Mohamed lived in Britain and sought asylum there in the early 1990s.
"We can prove that a photographic record was made of this by the CIA,'' the lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, wrote.
"Through diligent investigation we know when the CIA took pictures of Mr. Mohamed's brutalized genitalia, we know the identity of the CIA agents who were present, including the person who took the pictures (we know both their false
identities and their true names), and we know what those pictures show,'' Smith wrote. Copies of the letter were sent to U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
In a statement, the CIA didn't address directly whether the photos exist. But it denied that it would "conduct or condone torture" and defended the practice of sending suspects to third countries for interrogation, a practice known as rendition.
"Rendition, which has been used on a very limited scale, has helped the United States and other nations disrupt terror plots and networks and is designed to get terrorists off the street,'' said George Little, a spokesman for the agency.
Smith's letter is the latest move by lawyers for Guantanamo detainees to preserve evidence since CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden acknowledged last week that the agency had destroyed videotapes of interrogations of two suspected al Qaida leaders now in military custody at Guantanamo.
On Thursday, lawyers for another detainee, former Baltimore resident Majid Khan, asked a federal judge to order the Bush administration to preserve evidence of how their client was treated during more than three years in secret CIA custody. They said that they have ample evidence that he was tortured.
On Sunday, an attorney for 11 Yemeni captives at Guantanamo Bay asked U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. in Washington to hold a hearing on whether the U.S. government had violated Kennedy's 2005 order that evidence be preserved in the case.
There's no way to verify independently Smith's claims about Mohamed's treatment. He first described the interrogation techniques in a sworn affidavit in a 2006 U.S. Supreme Court Guantanamo detainee rights case.
"I have been privy to materials that allegedly support the finding that Mr. Mohamed should be held,'' Smith wrote Milliband, referring to military proceedings at Guantanamo that found Mohamed to have been an enemy combatant. "And while I cannot discuss some here (due to classification rules), I can state unequivocally that I have seen no evidence of any kind against Mr. Mohamed that is not the bitter fruit of torture.''
Mohamed is one of five former British residents at Guantanamo whose release the British government sought over the summer. Four of the five are expected to be released this month and sent to Britain and Saudi Arabia. But Mohamed isn't among them, and lawyers believe he'll be referred to a military commission for a war crimes trial.
(Rosenberg reports for The Miami Herald.)
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Read the sworn affidavit alleging torture filed with the U.S. Supreme Court.