• Torture
  • February 13, 2010
  • 3 minutes read

MI5 chief hits back amid torture cover-up row

MI5 chief hits back amid torture cover-up row

 LONDON – The head of Britain’s domestic spy service Friday defended his organisation’s work amid an escalating row over claims it tried to cover up its involvement in torture.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, MI5 director-general Jonathan Evans hit out at the allegation from one of Britain’s most senior judges that the agency had a "culture of suppression."

In rare public comments, he said the accusation — which came in a draft court ruling relating to the case of a Guantanamo Bay inmate — was the "precise opposite of the truth."

He admitted that British intelligence was "slow to detect" US mistreatment of detainees after the September 11 attacks in the United States.

But he added: "We in the (British) agencies did not practise mistreatment or torture then and do not do so now, nor do we collude or encourage others to torture on our behalf."

In his harsh critcism of MI5, which was removed from the final published court judgement but leaked out, Judge Lord Neuberger also accused the service of failing to respect human rights and misleading parliament.

Judges handed down the ruling Wednesday as they ordered the release of once-secret information about the case of former detainee Binyam Mohamed, which showed he had been subject to abuse at the hands of US authorities.

The CIA had passed the information to British intelligence, and judges released it after Foreign Secretary David Miliband lost an appeal court bid.

The publication of the seven-paragraph summary showing Britain was aware of the US authorities’ abuse, combined with the judge’s criticism, has intensified a row here about MI5’s alleged attempts to conceal its collusion in torture.

Evans also warned that Britain’s enemies could use the escalating row as "propaganda to undermine our will and ability to confront them."

Ethiopian-born Mohamed — who came to Britain in 1994 seeking asylum — claims that in Morocco in 2002 he was questioned by people using information that could only have come from the British intelligence service.

Miliband disclosed Wednesday that police were investigating allegations of criminal actions by a British official linked to the case.

Mohamed was arrested in Pakistan in 2002 while trying to return to Britain and spent nearly seven years in US custody or in countries taking part in the US-run rendition programme of terror suspects.

After a lengthy campaign by his supporters, he became the first prisoner to be released from Guantanamo under the Obama presidency and returned to Britain in February last year.