Court publishes new Binyam Mohamed paragraph

By staff

A paragraph criticising MI5 from the ruling concerning Binyam Mohamed earlier this month has been published, in a further damaging blow to the government.

The court of apppeal decided to publish the paragraph, which criticises MI5’s role in the affair, despite Foreign Office pressure not to do so.

It reveals severe criticism of MI5 from one of Britain’s most senior judges, Lord Neuberger, master of the rolls.

Jonathan Sumption QC, the government’s counsel, argued that the master of the rolls’ criticism of MI5 constituted “exceptionally damaging criticism of the good faith of the security service as a whole”.

The restored paragraph reads: “Some Security Services officials appear to have a dubious record relating to actual involvement, and frankness about any such involvement, with the mistreatment of Mr Mohamed when he was held at the behest of US officials.”

It goes on: “The good faith of the Foreign Secretary is not in question, but he prepared the certificates partly, possibly largely, on the basis of information and advice provided by Security Services personnel. Regrettably, but inevitably, this must raise the question whether any statement in the certificates on an issue concerning the mistreatment of Mr Mohamed can be relied on.

“Not only is there some reason for distrusting such a statement, given that it is based on Security Services’ advice and information, because of previous, albeit general, assurances in 2005, but also the Security Services have an interest in the suppression of such information.”

Home secretary Alan Johnson said he was “deeply disappointed” by the ruling. Foreign secretary David Miliband said he rejected the notion that MI5 had lied.

Gordon Brown intervened in the affair today, with a message of support for the security services.

“It is the nature of the work of the intelligence services that they cannot defend themselves against many of the allegations that have been made,” the prime minister said.

“But I can – and I have every confidence that their work does not undermine the principles and values that are the best guarantee of our future security.”

Mr Brown called Jonathan Evans, the head of MI5, to offer his support today.

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Edward Davey commented: “The implication that David Miliband had the wool pulled over his eyes is deeply embarrassing for the foreign secretary.

“However, the suggestion that he acted in good faith means the real questions need to be answered by others in Government. Did former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw sign off on the ‘coercive techniques’ referred to in the judgement?

“The suggestion that there were others in the security services involved in unacceptable practices makes the need for a full judicial inquiry irrefutable.”

The successful call to have the paragraph withheld prompted anger and indignation from free speech groups and various media outlets.

But today, in a unanimous judgement, Lord Neuberger, Lord Judge, the lord chief justice and Sir Anthony May, president of the Queen’s Bench Division – said the material should be published.

Cori Crider, legal director at Reprieve, said: “The sun shone on open justice today.

“Throughout this process the judges have shown the utmost integrity and concern for the public interest-one hopes the UK justices’ brethren across the sea are taking notes.”

Amnesty International UK director Kate Allen said: “It was disturbing that government lawyers were caught pressuring a senior judge into watering down his criticism of the intelligence services and it’s completely right that those original remarks have now been published.

“This whole affair has been bedevilled by attempts to block the truth about torture ever getting out. Today is another small victory against those who would like to keep these matters shrouded in darkness.

The original judgement revolved around attempts by foreign secretary David Miliband to prevent the high court judges from revealing US intelligence relating to the ill treatment of Mr Mohamed in Pakistan while he was under US custody.