The return of Binyam. This is going to hurt. A lot

The government should be squirming. Except, somehow it’s not. Strange. We’ve got a man alleging that Britain’s finest Daniel Craig wannabies were there in his Karachi jail back in 2002 issuing not-so-veiled threats about “cooperating” to spare himself (more) torture.

And now, with this person finally free to tell his potentially explosive story, David Miliband’s making bland “we’re glad we did so well getting him out”-type remarks. Mr M seems unfazed. What’s going on?

Here’s what I think. Senior people in the Foreign Office knew about this years ago. They may (or may not) have personally regretted that a man from this country was secretly detained, probably tortured on numerous occasions and secretly flown from country to country before being dumped at Guantánamo. It was done. Over. M15 had left them another mess to clear up. Hence Miliband having to clutch the poisoned chalice in Parliament, putting a brave face on it, but also trying desperately to prevent disclosure of the nasty details while focusing on the (comparatively) happy ending.

Well, okay, it’s only a guess! Rightly enough, Sky’s Tim Marshall warns against getting carried away before we know all of the facts (or at least a few more).

Here are some solid details for now. Binyam was stopped at Karachi International Airport by Pakistani police in April 2004. He was detained. His detention was never official. Around two years later he was taken to Guantánamo. He was eventually charged. The charges were eventually dropped. After nearly seven years he’s now back in Britain. Binyam has alleged torture. Two High Court judges have seen documents they say are “highly material” to these allegations. The judges would like them disclosed in the “public interest”. But the Foreign Secretary says disclosure would “cause real and significant damage to the national security and international relations of this country” because of its impact on the UK-USA “intelligence-sharing” relationship.

Not enough to go on? I’d say there’s plenty. Kidnapping (including by state agents) is a serious crime. Torture is a serious crime. A cover up could be adding to the original set of crimes.

The fact that David Miliband’s “we can’t let the public know because it might compromise intelligence-sharing” didn’t fool my – rather naïve – pet goldfish just adds insult to injury. No politician is going to say: “well, we’re just going to have to cover this one up everybody”. A public inquiry into who knew what, when, and who in this country – if anyone – connived in international torture is the absolute minimum we need.

At the first sign of a serious investigation into the UK’s role in the “war on terror” I reckon we may indeed see some real-life political squirming.

(PS: watch a new Amnesty interview with Binyam’s military lawyer Yvonne Bradley here).

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