Guantánamo detainee – and British resident – Ahmed Belbacha: A letter to the Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary requesting his return to the UK

6.8.07

The following is the text of a letter that I have just emailed to Home Secretary Jacqui Smith (smithjj@parliament.uk) and Foreign Secretary David Miliband (milibandd@parliament.uk), regarding the prospect of Ahmed Belbacha’s imminent return to Algeria, where he is at risk of torture. I’ll let you know if I receive any response, but in the meantime please feel free to adapt it and to send your own letters. For more on his story –- and the reasons why action is imperative –- please see here.

Dear Home/Foreign Secretary,

I’m writing to you with some urgency regarding the US administration’s proposal to forcibly return Guantánamo detainee –- and British resident –- Ahmed Belbacha to Algeria, the country of his birth, where, as his lawyers at Reprieve have explained, he is at risk from both the Algerian security services and the militant Islamists from whom he fled to the UK in the first place.

I am sure that you are familiar with Mr. Belbacha’s story: how he lived peacefully in the UK for two and a half years, how he was given a tip by John Prescott after the 1999 Labour Party conference in Bournemouth, for his work in helping make the deputy PM’s stay at the Highcliff Hotel more comfortable, how he was captured and sold to the Americans in late 2001 in Pakistan, where he had been on holiday, and how he was unconditionally cleared of all wrong-doing by the US authorities earlier this year.

I am aware that the government has persistently refused to accept the return to the UK of any of the British residents in Guantánamo, but I am also aware that an exception was made in March, in the case of Bisher al-Rawi, and I urge you to act immediately to accept the return of Mr. Belbacha to the UK. Having made an exception to your rules in the case of Mr. al-Rawi, the refusal to act on Mr. Belbacha’s behalf would, I believe, portray the new administration, of which you are a key part, in a very unfavourable light, and would suggest that the government is only prepared to act –- as in Mr. al-Rawi’s case –- when faced with the possibility of being shamed by revelations that the detainee in question was actually working for the British intelligence services.

I should add that I am also keen to see the government request the return to the UK of Jamil El-Banna, another British resident –- married with five British children –- who has also been cleared of any wrong-doing by the US authorities, but in the first instance I would be grateful to hear your response to the case of Mr. Belbacha, as the prospect of his imminent return to torture is rather more pressing.

With best wishes,
Andy Worthington

For more on Ahmed Belbacha and the other British residents in Guantánamo, see my book The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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