I confessed to escape Guantanamo torture
By Jason Lewis
The Mail on Sunday
February 19, 2006
A British student secretly released after more than two years in America's notorious Guantanamo Bay terror suspect prison told last night how he had been barred from returning to the UK.
And, as Jamal "Tony" Kiyemba spoke of the systematic torture he suffered at the hands of his captors, The Mail on Sunday has learned that Home Secretary Charles Clarke personally intervened to keep him out of Britain on "national security grounds".
The 25-year-old Londoner has been returned to his country of birth, Uganda, where he is now in custody. Kiyemba was freed without warning last week as international pressure mounted on America to close the detention camp after a highly critical UN report on the treatment of prisoners there.
Last night his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, who specialises in human rights cases, handed this newspaper a dossier detailing the abuses his client alleges he suffered.
Kiyemba claims the Americans forced him, under torture, to confess to terrorist activities, and that MI5 interrogated him repeatedly, quizzing him about British terror suspects and the jailed clerics Abu Hamza and Abu Qatada.
The Government is refusing to reveal why Kiyemba, a Leicester University pharmacy student who grew up in London and whose mother, four brothers and sister all live in Britain, has been excluded from the country. But his lawyer believes something he was tortured into saying may hold the clue.
Kiyemba was granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK when he left Uganda following the death of his father in 1993. He didn't apply for British citizenship and this meant that at Guantanamo Bay he was not entitled to representation by the Foreign Office nor, on his release, to automatic rights to return to his family.
"I may not be British according to some bit of paper but in reality I am a Brit and always will be," he told his lawyer. "My doctor, my local mosque, my teens, my education, employment, friends, taxes, home and above all else my family - it is all in Britain."
Kiyemba was arrested in Pakistan in March 2002. He had gone there, he claims, to study Arabic and the Koran because it was "very cheap". He says he was held there for two months, beaten by Pakistani intelligence officers, threatened with torture and, finally, blindfolded and gagged, put on an American plane and flown to the US prison at Bagram in Afghanistan.
There, he claims, he was subjected to systematic torture. He told his lawyer that he would be "hung on the door for two hours and then allowed to sit for half an hour but never allowed to sleep. This would go on for 48 hours in a row".
After this, he claims, he would be taken for interrogation for two hours at a time. "I had to kneel on the cold concrete throughout the interrogations with my cuffed hands above my head," he said. "The only way out, I was told, was to confess. I heard and saw other torture - banging, screaming, cries, barking dogs and a dead guy who had tried to escape. One of the MPs [military police] said: 'Who's next?' So I confessed to be left alone."
Kiyemba's lawyer says his client was then interviewed by MI5 officers. 'They showed him many pictures of supposed terrorists in the UK and told him that he could only get them to help if he helped them.
"But he did not know any of them - he recognised Abu Hamza and Abu Qatada from television but had never seen them in person."
In October 2002 Kiyemba was transferred to Guantanamo Bay. He recalls how on the journey he was forced to wear "the tightest cuffs to date, with chains, taped goggles, ear muffs, nose masks and taped gloves to prevent finger movement". He added: "Any movement meant you got hit by the nearest soldier."
At Guantanamo, Kiyemba says he had three more visits from MI5 who asked him if he wished to make any changes to his previous statements. He says when he said no, "they left in what seemed like an angry mood".
He added: "The American interrogators did not believe my story. Soon they had me standing up for sleep deprivation. They swore that if I did not admit to having planned jihad in Afghanistan, then what lay ahead for me would be far worse.
"The Americans promised to send me to "our Egyptian friends who are renowned for torturing and they will do the dirty work for us". In the end I just gave up resisting and told them what they wanted to hear so that they would leave me alone."
But, he says, the torture did not let up. On one occasion Kiyemba claims he was forced to the ground by guards, bound and soaked with pepper spray.
"They then sprayed it on a towel until it was soaked and rubbed the towel in his eyes," his lawyer noted. "He did not know what to do about the pain. He asked a medic, who told him to wash his eyes out with cold water - this made it worse."
A letter from a senior Foreign Office staffer was the first official word Kiyemba's family got of his release. It said: "You should be aware that the Home Secretary has personally directed that he should be excluded from the UK on grounds of national security."
Last night Mr Stafford Smith, director of the human rights group Reprieve, called on the Home Secretary to reconsider his client's plight.
He said: "Jamal Kiyemba has lived his whole life in Britain since he was a boy. His mother and family all live here. Charles Clarke refused to lift a finger to help him when he was being abused in Guantanamo Bay. Now he has barred him from his home and his mother based on allegations he won't reveal but which were almost certainly based on what Jamal said under torture."
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