A Bitter Birthday

Yesterday was my elder son’s 32nd birthday, but he wasn’t at home – I expect to see him later today when he comes back home. But yesterday I went to another birthday party, for a young man exactly two years younger than my son. His family, a few miles away in London,  haven’t seen him since 2002 and may never see him again.

Fair Tiral?

Binyam Mohamed, born in Ethiopia but lived in London and was given refugee status in 1994 was in Afghanistan in 2002 and fled across the border to Pakistan when the fighting started . There he was kidnapped and handed over to the CIA becoming one of the many subject to “illegal rendition”. First they flew him to Morocco, where he was tortured for 18 months. At times he was shackled in excruciatingly painful positions, sometimes hanging, for hours or days in darkness, unable to move to relieve the pain, often with headphones blasting music at ear-splitting volume into his head. Other abuses included regular razor cuts to his genitals. The torture continued at Kabul’s ‘Dark Prison’ where he was rendered next, before going on to Guantanamo. You can read more about his treatment on the Reprieve website, at the National Guantanamo Coalition or on You Tube (and related videos there.)

The US now intend to put Binyam in front of a military tribunal, calling for the death penalty. The “evidence” was produced during his torture and none would be admissible in any proper court.

The London Guantánamo Campaign had organised a six day vigil at the US embassy calling for Binyam’s release and return home, which culminated in a protest party on Whitehall, urging our Government to do more to get the US to release him. I hope that Gordon will talk to Obama about it too when they meet tonight.  Earlier this year I photographed a day of demonstrations in London on the 6th anniversary of the setting up of the illegal prison camp at Guantánamo, with events organised  by Amnesty,  the London Guantánamo Campaign, London Catholic Workers and ending with a rally in Parliament Square by Cageprisoners / Guantánamo Campaign, at which Binyam’s case was raised.

As I walked away I felt for Binyam and for his family. When I see my son tonight I’ll remember them again.

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