There are a number of men being held without charge or trial in Britain’s own version of Guantanamo Bay.
And while David Cameron’s government is willing to condemn the existence of this boil on the face of human rights in occupied Cuba, it remains silent about those being held in Wiltshire’s Long Lartin prison.
Most of them are fighting extradition to the US—a fight that has become even more urgent now that we have all seen US justice in action in recent days.
US justice means extrajudicial killings, targeted assassinations, and doing away with the need for a fair trial, or any trial for that matter.
I would hope, and expect, all of their legal teams now, as a matter of urgency, submit new appeals on behalf of their clients to stop extradition immediately to a country that simply cannot deal justly with those it suspects of terrorism.
Can anyone really give guarantees these men will not be put up against a wall and shot in the back of the head the moment they arrive on US soil?
Some of the men I’m talking about have been held since before 9/11 and one includes Saudi-born Khalid al-Fawwaz who has endured this legal limbo now for more than 12 years.
US intelligence says he is accused of conspiring with Osama bin Laden in the bombings of two US embassies. This may be true; I don’t know and neither do any of us until he is put through a fair trial. One thing is for sure—a key witness is now lying at the bottom of the ocean in a weighted-down body bag.
Prosecutors in New York have now charged Fawwaz with helping al-Qaida to orchestrate the 1998 car bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed 224 people.
A letter from a lawyer seeking to be appointed as Fawwaz’s US defence counsel said: “He [Fawwaz] anticipates extradition from the United Kingdom to the United States within the next few months to face these charges.”
The lawyer, David Kirby, told Reuters that he had been in touch with Fawwaz’s UK lawyers, who he said had told him they had exhausted all efforts to fight his extradition, and he could arrive in the US in the next few weeks.
In a move regarded as sinister by some, Kirby’s request to be appointed as Fawwaz’s US defence lawyer has been denied by New York Judge Lewis Kaplan of Manhattan federal court. He told him to reapply once Fawwaz arrives—so, no guarantees Fawwaz is going to even get legal representation!
If Fawwaz is already being denied a lawyer before he arrives to the US, does this mean they’re going to fast track him Osama-style to execution?
As I say, I’ve no idea if Fawwaz is guilty or not—that should be determined in a fair trial, but the reality is such things do not exist in the current incendiary climate of America.
What I do know is that he was arrested in 1998, after moving to London in the 1990s from Kenya with his family. In the UK, he is alleged to have established an organization called the Advice and Reformation Committee, a political group supposedly headed by Bin Laden that was said to be campaigning for peaceful reform in Saudi Arabia.
US intelligence says Bin Laden, through Fawwaz, published several threats against the US in the 1990s for keeping troops in the Kingdom.
Fawwaz has always denied any involvement with Bin Laden and rejected allegations that the committee was a British arm of al-Qaida.
Now that US Navy Seals have assassinated a potential key witness—on the orders of their Commander in Chief Barack Obama—the defense has been denied a major opportunity.
Evidence supplied by other witnesses has been done so under torture and is therefore unreliable and inadmissible in most courts of law around the world.
Ahmed Ghailani, a former bodyguard for Bin Laden, was sentenced to life in prison in January over the embassy bombings, following a six-week trial in Manhattan. He was the first former Guantánamo Bay detainee to face a civilian trial in the US and had undoubtedly endured torture en route to the dock.
Of course, before he had his trial, he was captured in 2004 in Pakistan after a battle with government troops and then sold like a commodity to US intelligence to be tortured. Unsurprisingly, he was later found guilty of being part of the plot in which hundreds of were killed in twin bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.
Four co-defendants of Ghailani were convicted of all charges, including joining an al-Qaida conspiracy to kill US nationals, during a 2001 trial in New York. All of this during a period when the use of torture was sanctioned and signed off by the then US President George W Bush and his cabal of neocons like Donald Rumsfeld.
It is worth remembering that both of these remnants of the US Administration, that launched the now discredited War on Terror, have to be careful where they travel for fear they could end up in a court of law to answer for their sanctioning of torture and crimes against humanity.
In the light of recent events in Abbottabad, Pakistan every civilized country in the world must now suspend extradition proceedings with the USA and look for an alternative—maybe even The Hague.
Britain’s controversial extradition treaty with the US was brokered by a slavish Tony Blair Government and is deeply unpopular with British people, certainly no other country in the world signed such a deal which threatened sovereignty—it now needs to be scrapped by Cameron’s government soonest.
I don’t know the details of the evidence against the men in Long Lartin, men like Khalid al Fawwaz, but I do know every one of them would welcome his day in court—an open court where justice is seen to be done and where they have a right to a defense.
If we start handing over UK citizens and foreign nationals to a country that has no respect for international law, the Geneva and Vienna Conventions, and calls targeted assassination “justice” then we too become lawless by association.