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Detainee ‘just skin and bones’ after six years in custody

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Esther Addley
London Guardian
Thursday, Feb 5, 2009

On 24 July last year, Binyam Mohamed marked his 30th birthday, and his sixth in US military custody. It was not a very festive occasion. Two months earlier, it had emerged, Mohamed had begun a hunger strike, though for 16 days his guards at Guantánamo Bay did not notice, according to his lawyers. When it finally became apparent he was refusing his food, by which time he had lost more than 6kg (about 14lb), they say he was shown a book called Healthy Eating, featuring photos of gourmet treats from around the world.

Mohamed was taken into custody in Pakistan in 2002, as he attempted to fly home to Britain using a fake British passport. He was born in Ethiopia but moved to London as a refugee with his parents in 1994, aged 15, and while he has never been granted British citizenship, Mohamed was given leave to remain in the UK. He spent his late teens and early 20s in Notting Hill, working as a janitor while studying engineering.

By the summer of 2001, he has claimed, he had a drugs problem, but his Muslim faith was deepening and he travelled to Afghanistan to see the Taliban’s hardline regime for himself. He was detained at Karachi airport the following April.


The US authorities claimed Mohamed had been attending al-Qaida training camps and accused him of conspiring with the American Muslim convert Jose Padilla to plot a “dirty bomb” attack on a US city. Those charges were dropped, but the US said it expected further charges.

The British authorities were informed, and he was visited by an MI5 agent. The agent later told his superiors in a telegram that Mohamed had been recruited at a London mosque to travel to Afghanistan to learn about weapons and explosives.

  • A d v e r t i s e m e n t

“[BM] is intelligent and patient,” the agent wrote to his superiors. “I suspect that he will only begin to provide information of genuine value if he comes to believe that it is genuinely in his interests to do so. I don’t think he has yet reached this point.”

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This article was posted: Thursday, February 5, 2009 at 5:03 am

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