SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – A lawyer for a Guantanamo prisoner has urged U.S. authorities to preserve CIA photos that would prove his client was tortured when the spy agency allegedly sent him to Morocco for questioning about Al Qaeda links.
The request is urgent because of the disclosure that the CIA destroyed videotaped interrogations of two suspected terrorists now held at Guantanamo, lawyer Clive Stafford Smith said.
Smith alleges Binyam Mohamed was abused during 18 months in captivity in Morocco, where he was flown after he was captured in Pakistan in 2002. He was later transferred to a CIA-run prison in Afghanistan and then to the U.S. base in Guantanamo, Cuba.
The lawyer said any evidence the U.S. has for holding Mohamed — one of five British residents still imprisoned at Guantanamo — came through "medieval" torture in Morocco.
"I have seen no evidence of any kind against Mr. Mohamed that is not the bitter fruit of torture," he wrote in a Dec. 9 letter to British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, with copies to U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Stafford Smith said he had CIA flight records that substantiated his allegations the agency rendered Mohamed to Morocco and that CIA officers had photographed his injuries.
According to Mohamed's account, which AP obtained in April 2006, his torturers sliced his penis with a scalpel and threatened to sever his private parts. Mohamed said he was beaten, deprived of sleep, given mind-altering drugs and subjected to extremely loud rock music through headphones while handcuffed.
He said that while he was held in a house in Morocco, an English-speaking woman who used the name Sarah was sometimes present. She claimed to be Canadian, but Mohamed suspected she was American.
"Through diligent investigation we know when the CIA took pictures ... 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," Stafford Smith wrote.
CIA spokesman George Little said in an e-mail Monday the agency uses rendition — the secret transfer of prisoners from U.S. control into the hands of foreign governments, some with a history of torture — "on a very limited scale."
Little said rendition "has helped the United States and other nations disrupt terror plots and networks" but asserted the United States does not transfer custody of anyone "for the purpose of torture."
Mohamed, who was born in Ethiopia and moved to Britain when he was 15, is accused by the United States of conspiring with Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders to attack civilians and commit other crimes. He is among about 305 men imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay.
The U.S. filed charges against him, but the charges were nullified when the Supreme Court last year struck down the military's trial rules. He has not yet been charged under the new system approved by Congress and President Bush in late 2006.
Mohamed, Stafford Smith said, denies he is an enemy of the United States.
The lawyer said he will push for prosecution of the U.S. intelligence officers for being "a party to these savage events."