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July 30, 2005
Fears that US seeking to torture alleged London bombing accomplice
Solicitors acting for the parents of Haroon Rashid Aswat are pressing the British Foreign Office to gain immediate consular access to their son fearing that the US may be seeking to extradite him from Zambia to Guantanamo Bay, The Muslim News has exclusively learnt.
Aswat, who was previously linked as an alleged accomplice to the 7/7 London bombings, is reportedly being held Lusaka, the Zambian capital, since crossing into the country from South Africa more than a week ago.
"We are extremely concerned, distressed and disappointed by the attitude of the British government and the FCO in not providing consular access to Haroon,” said a copy of a family statement, obtained by The Muslim News. It is very worrying that after more than 10 days the British government is still unable to verify that the British citizen detained is actually Haroon,” they said through their solicitors.
Human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce said she had grave concern that the US Government may be trying to extradite the British-born Muslim “to the US or elsewhere,” particularly in the light of the way the Americans have treated UK citizens held in custody in recent years.
Her office told The Muslim News that they were concerned that after more than a week the Foreign Office had not ensured he had an opportunity of legal representation and was subjected to proper care and attention while in detention. They said they were only too familiar with other cases where British citizens and those with granted refugee protection by the British have been arrested in and removed from Zambia, Gambia and Pakistan to Guantanamo Bay.
Aswat, a 31-year old British citizen of Indian descent, was originally linked with the 7/7 attacks after police reportedly discovered that calls had been placed from his cellphone to some of the four suicide bombers. It was suspected that he may have been the mastermind behind the attack and had left the UK before the bombings. Since then he was reported to have been arrested in Pakistan with a belt of explosives but it transpired that apparently it was a case of mistaken identity of someone with the same name.
“Our son, albeit estranged for many years, is surely entitled to the presumption of innocence as any other British citizen,” his parents said. “Press reports are reporting unnamed British officials in discussions with the US government over extradition of Haroon yet our government and the FCO is dilly dallying and does not have the decency to confirm Haroon’s detention. We wonder whether the government’s attitude would have been any different if it was a white, non-Muslim citizen detained in a foreign country? " they said.
According to the British press reports Saturday, Aswat is now not suspected of involvement in the London attacks but instead is instead being linked by the US with an alleged role in planning to set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon, nearly five years ago. It was also earlier reported that the UK had rejected a request from the US to arrest him a week before the 7/7 attacks but this was denied by the Foreign Office.
Despite the lack of consular access, a US official was quoted by the Los Angeles Times that British and American anti-terrorism investigators went to Zambia last week and were “in talks with officials there to determine where it would be best to prosecute Aswat.”
The Guardian further reported that a dispute had arisen between the US and Washington and British diplomats, who were said to have “no objection to him being extradited to stand trial.” But in contrast, American authorities were “understood to wish to see him subjected to a process known as rendition, which could see him taken to a country other than the US, where he may be at risk of being tortured.”
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