By Michael Seamark
Terror detainees yesterday accused the Government of trying to buy their silence over torture claims.
Up to a dozen former suspects may be paid compensation as part of an inquiry announced by David Cameron.
Any payments to the former inmates of Guantanamo Bay – who have taken legal action against the Government claiming MI5 and MI6 agents were complicit in their torture – are likely to prove controversial.
Former detainees made it clear the Government must beef up the inquiry if it wants them to drop legal action.
Mr Cameron has said the probe will only begin once the court cases are settled but the Government has not given the inquiry the power to compel witnesses like Tony Blair to attend.
Libyan national Omar Deghayes, who spent five years at the Cuban detention camp, said: ‘It feels a little bit like blackmail.
‘They want us to keep quiet. It seems a condition of us accepting the compensation will be that we drop the civil cases.’
He made clear that the detainees would not go quietly since it is publicity about what was done to them rather than money that matters.
‘This is not a compensation issue,’ he said. ‘I must stress that we did not begin civil proceedings to get a bit of money, we did it to raise awareness and try and stop the same thing happening again.
‘It is not acceptable that we be required to keep quiet and not talk about torture again,’ said Mr Deghayes, who lives in Brighton.
The Prime Minister said much of the inquiry, which threatens grave embarrassment to both security chiefs and former Labour ministers and will strain Britain’s relationship with the US, will be held in secret to protect sensitive information.
But another former detainee, Moazzam Begg, 41, warned that it would be undermined by any attempt to hear evidence behind closed doors.
The Birmingham bookshop owner captured in Pakistan by the CIA, which claimed he was an Al Qaeda recruiter, said:’ I understand that it is important that the security services are effective, but it is important that anyone who has committed a crime is brought to justice.
‘ Any inquiry into torture should be held in public.’
Mr Deghayes said:’It’s frustrating that much of it will be in secret. If it is going to be a real inquiry, then it will be a good thing, but I just hope it’s not going to be a whitewash.’
Katherine O’Shea of human rights group Reprieve, said: ‘The detainees genuinely want the truth to come out more than they want the money. We cannot learn from the mistakes that were made unless we know what went on.
’If the court cases are binned and the inquiry held largely in secret none of the information about the mistakes that were made will come out. There needs to be a presumption that information will be published. I don’t think anyone trusts politicians to decide what we need to know.’
Father of four Mr Begg said he had not taken a decision on whether to accept compensation, which Downing Street insists will be cheaper than spending ‘millions of pounds’ defending court actions and leaving the security services ‘under as cloud.’
Mr Begg said:’I think if there was an offer of compensation, I would have to sit down with my fellow former prisoners and discuss what we would do and how we have been affected by this.
‘I’m not doing this because I want compensation. I want the British government to recognise what has happened and to apologise.’
A Downing Street spokesman said ministers had been given legal advice that ‘it’s difficult to run the inquiry and civil cases in parallel because the one risks prejudicing the other.’
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