Monday, February 23, 2009

The Strange Case of Binyam Mohamed

Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed was released to Britain today. His case illustrates just how difficult it is to draw any certain conclusions about the Guantanamo detainees. Based on publicly available information, many things about this case do not add up.

The BBC has a profile of Mohamed found here. He is an Ethiopian who was resident in Britain. He converts to Islam in 2001, and goes first to Pakistan and then to Afghanistan. He attends an Al Qaeda training camp. Although he claims he wasn't fighting against the U.S., he admits to being at the camp. That pretty clearly identifies him as a jihadi terrorist. After that things get really murky.

Mohamed is arrested in Pakistan. He is then sent to Morocco for 18 months. He claims he was tortured in both places. In 2004 he's transferred to Afghanistan (where he again says he was tortured), and finally ends up at Guantanamo. In 2007 the UK asks for his release, but the U.S. thinks he's part of the so-called dirty bomb plot and charges him with various crimes. But charges are dropped in October 2008. And now he's released to Britain. Assuming this narrative is all or partly true -- and that's a gigantic assumption -- it raises various questions that I haven't seen anyone asking.

1. If Mohamed was being tortured for information in Pakistan, why was it necessary to send him to Morocco? Do they have better torturers than Pakistan?

2. Why is he in Morocco for a year and a half?

3. Why is he sent back to Afghanistan after all that?

4. Three years after he was captured, he ends up in Guantanamo. Why? Presumably after three years of interrogating him, we know everything we are going to know about him. Why bother bringing him to Gitmo? If he's the dangerous terrorist we think he is, why not just dispose of him in Afghanistan?

5. Why charge him and then drop the charges? We've had years to make a case against him. If we know the evidence is no good because of torture, why even bother charging him in the first place?

6. Why do the British care one bit what happens to him? He's not a British citizen and he's a known terrorist. He was a resident who left to become a jihadi in the Middle East. Why do they want him released at all, let alone want him back in Britain? Are they just stupid? Do they have a special immigration quota for allowing Islamic terrorists into Britain that needs to be filled?

Nothing about this case makes much sense at all. The British are welcome to him. Maybe they'll be dumb enough to take any other terrorists we want to release. It doesn't hurt to ask.

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