2000-2009 | Renditions | Torture

Binyam Mohamed offered tea before torture

Protesters in London highlight the ongoing detention of Binyam Mohamed in 2008.
Val Kerry – CC BY 2.0 – via Flickr.

17 May 2002

On 17 May 2002, an MI5 officer interviewed a British resident being held incommunicado and without any access to any legal representation in Pakistan.1 Binyam Mohamed had been arrested a month earlier on 10 April at Karachi airport, as he was about to board a flight to Britain, for a visa violation.  Mohamed recalled that

‘They gave me a cup of tea with a lot of sugar in it. I initially only took one. “No, you need a lot more. Where you are going you need a lot of sugar.” I didn’t know exactly what he meant by this, but I figured he meant some poor country in Arabia. One of them did tell me I was going to get tortured by the Arabs.’2

The MI5 officer, as he later admitted, explained to Mohamed that ‘if he wanted my help (in persuading the United States, which was going to decide his fate, to be more lenient), he would need to be completely forthcoming.’ The officer insisted that this amounted to a statement of the obvious, rather than a threat. Two months later, on 22 July, Mohamed was flown by the CIA from Pakistan to Morocco on a rendition flight so his interrogation could be outsourced to the Moroccan government. Once in Moroccan detention, he was subjected to appalling forms of torture including repeated cuts, using a scalpel and razor blade to his chest and penis.

Mohamed recalled how, before and after these torture sessions, he was shown ‘photographs and files that they said came from Britain, from MI5. They called it the British file. It was then that I realised that the British were sending questions to the Moroccans.’3  The country, to which he had originally applied for asylum was now collaborating in his interrogation and torture. After 18 months of detention in Morocco, Mohamed was flown to the United States’ Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, the site of a notorious dark prison, and then to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, before being finally released in 2009, when he was able to return to Britain and took action in the High Court against MI5 collusion in his torture.  On 10 February 2010, the UK Court of Appeal ruled that he had suffered ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment,’ in which the British intelligence services had been complicit. 


  1. ‘MI5 officer escapes charges in Binyan Mohamed torture case,’ The Guardian, 17 November 2010 accessed online at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/nov/17/mi5-officer-binyam-mohamed-case
  2. Binyam Mohamed cited in Andrew Tyrie MP, Roger Gough and Stuart McCracken, Account Rendered: Extraordinary Rendition and Britain’s role, Biteback Publishing, London, 2011,  p. 87.
  3. Ibid.

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