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Diplomat tells court: US links not a bar to hearing torture case

CLAIMS by the British government that a case brought by a Pakistani national alleging Britain’s involvement in his rendition and torture would damage US relations have been called into question.

Lawyers for the government had argued that a case brought by Yunus Rahmatullah, who was detained and mistreated by British personnel in Iraq before being handed over to the US for “rendition” to Afghanistan, should not be heard for fear of damaging British-US relations.

But in a statement yesterday presented to the High Court in London a former senior US ambassador and State Department official described the claims as “highly unlikely.”

The statement provided to the court by Thomas R Pickering, a former US under-secretary of state who served for four decades as a diplomat, said that the British government’s claims “misunderstand the value the United States places on the rule of law.”

Mr Pickering stressed that “I firmly believe that adjudicating Mr Rahmatullah’s case in UK courts is highly unlikely to cause damage to the relations or national security cooperation between the US and UK.”

After his 2004 capture Mr Rahmatullah maintains he was subjected to simulated drowning and beatings which rendered him unconscious.

He was later transferred to US custody in Bagdhad’s notorious Abu Ghraib prison, after which he was extra judicially transferred to Bagram in Afghanistan where he was held for more than years before being released without charge last June.

Mr Rahmatullah is now challenging the British government’s refusal to investigate his allegations of torture and rendition, and is also asking the court to determine that the government’s actions were unlawful.

Reprieve legal director Kat Craig, who is representing Mr Rahmatullah in conjunction with Leigh Day solicitors, said: “The British government knows that it is in the wrong, yet instead of coming clean on its part in Mr Rahmatullah’s rendition and torture, it is doing everything it can to make sure this case never sees the light of day.

“Now a former senior US ambassador with decades of experience at the highest levels of American diplomacy has blown the British government’s case out of the water. It is time they dropped this shameful attempt to deny justice to a victim of brutal torture and years of mistreatment.”

The case is expected to continue today.

paddym@peoples-press.com

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