WASHINGTON – In an about-face, the British government has decided to ask the Bush administration to hand over a Guantanamo detainee who was captured in Africa, the latest twist in the special arrangement between war-on-terrorism allies England and the U.S. over the Pentagon’s offshore prison for terrorism suspects.
Bisher Rawi, 36, has been held at the base in Cuba since sometime after he was arrested in Gambia in November 2002, handed over to U.S. authorities, and then sent to a U.S. detention center at Bagram, Afghanistan.
U.S. officials categorize him as an “enemy combatant” because of his associations with a radical Muslim cleric in Britain, prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. But, according to transcripts of his status hearings at Guantanamo, released by the Pentagon recently, he claimed that British military intelligence was aware of the relationship.
Also, British newspapers reported last week, without attribution, that Foreign Secretary Jack Straw had decided to request his return to England because he had served as an informant for a British intelligence unit.
“As far as we’re concerned, that’s pure speculation,” a British diplomat said of the reports.
Monday, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported that British officials were involved in the CIA’s capture of Rawi and business colleague Jamil el Banna, both now at Guantanamo. An Associated Press report from London said the BBC’s “Newsnight” program had obtained telegrams from British intelligence to U.S. authorities alerting them to the identities of the two men.
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