LONDON: Human rights groups and MPs are calling for an investigation into claims that MI5 officers colluded in the torture of British citizens detained in Pakistan during counter-terrorism operations, after the allegations were detailed by the Guardian yesterday. The demand came as a fourth Briton alleged that British officials “outsourced” his torture to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency in an attempt to extract information about a planned al-Qaida attack against the UK.
Amnesty International said the British government needed to explain what steps are taken to ensure suspects are not tortured after they are detained in Pakistan at the request of British counter-terrorism officials. In a letter to the Guardian, Kate Allen, Amnesty’s UK director, added: “Complicity in torture is a crime and you don’t defeat terrorism by committing further crimes.”
Andrew Tyrie, Conservative MP for Chichester and chair of the all-party parliamentary group on extraordinary rendition, said he would be raising the matter in the Commons. “Allegations of UK involvement in torture or extraordinary renditions are extremely serious,” he said. “All such allegations must be properly investigated by the government. The public must have confidence that British officials are not complicit in torture.”
The fourth man to claim that he was tortured after being detained in Pakistan during a British-led counter-terrorism investigation is an alleged al-Qaida terrorist from the West Midlands. He says that for several months the ISI kept him in a pitch-black cell not much bigger than a coffin, and that he was brought out to be beaten, whipped and subjected to electric shocks. On one occasion, he alleges, he was kept hooded and interrogated by people speaking English, with both British and American accents.
The man, who is not being named for legal reasons, made the allegations to family members and to a lawyer in Islamabad who was eventually allowed to see him. The allegations cannot be corroborated, and Pakistani authorities claim the man’s whereabouts are unknown now that he is no longer in their custody. However, his claims follow similar allegations made by three other British citizens of Pakistani origin. These men all say they suffered severe torture at secret ISI interrogation centres shortly before receiving questioning by British counter-terrorism officials.
The latest man to allege British collusion in his torture had been living in Pakistan for almost four years when he was picked up by the ISI two years ago, during a British-led counter-terrorism operation. Shortly after his arrest the Agence France-Presse news agency quoted an unnamed Pakistani official as saying he had been “broken” during interrogation.
When he was eventually taken from the ISI interrogation centre to a prison, and saw a lawyer, he said he had been interrogated by westerners as well as Pakistanis, and alleged he had been mistreated. “He said he had been interrogated by westerners, but didn’t specify whether they were British or American,” said his lawyer. “He was not well treated during interrogation.”
The 27-year-old’s family say he gave a detailed account of mistreatment after being brought to court on a number of occasions. His brother said: “He described being dragged off a bus and having the living daylights beaten out of him. At first he was held in what he called a ‘grave cell’. It was like a coffin: there was so little room that when he was lying down if he brought up his knees they touched the roof.
“He told me that one time, when he was being beaten, he could hear English and American accents in the room with him. He had a hood over his head but he knows what an English accent sounds like.” A court in Pakistan eventually ruled that there was insufficient evidence to convict the man on terrorism charges.-SANA