Guantanamo inmate Shaker Aamer to sue UK for defamation

Shaker Aamer with two of his children
Image caption Mr Aamer's children and wife live in London

A man detained at Guantanamo Bay has launched a defamation suit against the UK security and intelligence services.

Shaker Aamer, the last remaining British resident at the facility, claims MI5 and MI6 made "knowingly false statements" to his US captors.

The Saudi national's lawyers have filed legal papers with both the home and foreign secretaries.

The detainee is into his 11th year of detention at Guantanamo, even though he has been cleared for release.

'False information'

The lawsuit includes details of allegations against him that have only recently been declassified.

His lawyers say these allegations are defamatory and they will take the unusual step of publicising them as part of the action.

Shaker Aamer is a Saudi national who arrived in the UK in 1996. He was granted indefinite leave to remain with his wife and four children.

Soon after the 9/11 attacks, he was detained in Afghanistan where it is alleged he was involved in fighting at Tora Bora, an al-Qaeda stronghold targeted by the Americans as they hunted Osama Bin Laden. Mr Aamer denies this and says he was engaged in charity work.

In defamation legal papers seen by the BBC, the detainee's lawyers say: "Mr Aamer emphatically denies that he is a member of al-Qaeda. The British Security Services will be able to produce not one shred of reliable evidence to the contrary."

His lawyers claim that the US interrogators were supplied with "knowingly false information" by the UK security services, including the allegation that Mr Aamer was paid directly by Bin Laden and that he also recruited people to fight for al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.

The legal action is being brought by the legal charity Reprieve and names both Foreign Secretary William Hague and Home Secretary Theresa May, whose departments supervise MI6 and MI5 respectively, and it will be launched at a press conference later on Friday.

Reprieve's founder Clive Stafford Smith said but there was no evidence Mr Aamer was an extremist.

"I'm utterly convinced that Shaker was not involved in extremism. But don't take my word for it, lets have a trial - that's the British way of doing things, and it's the American way too. But if you presume people guilty we may as well lock everyone up," he said.

Ill-treatment claims

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said it was "inappropriate to comment, given legal proceedings".

But she said the Foreign Office continued to make clear to the US that it wanted Mr Aamer released and returned to the UK as a matter of urgency, and in the meantime was monitoring his welfare via contact with American officials.

The High Court in London has heard claims that while Mr Aamer was detained at the US's Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, he was "subjected to cold water treatment, hog tying [and] sleep deprivation".

Image caption The commander of the Guantanamo Bay facility has denied ill-treatment at the facility

Mr Aamer also alleges that his head was beaten against a wall and he was threatened with death in the presence of a member of the UK Security Service, MI5.

The Metropolitan Police are currently investigating allegations that UK officials colluded in his alleged mistreatment.

In February 2002 Mr Aamer was flown to Guantanamo Bay. His lawyers say that he was then subjected to beatings, extreme changes in temperature and more than three years of solitary confinement. The US Department of Defense denies that it holds anyone in such conditions in the naval facility.

Mr Aamer claims that he made a number of confessions under duress during 500 interrogations and that those formed the basis of the US case against him.

Though the US has never publicly released their allegations against Mr Aamer, the controversial campaigning website Wikileaks published a confidential Pentagon case file against Mr Aamer in which he was described as a member of a "UK-based al-Qaeda cell" and a close associate of Bin Laden who had "shown a willingness to become a martyr for his cause".

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