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Lawyers call for evidence from MoD in Afghan torture case

Lawyers have voiced their frustration at what they describe as a ‘Kafkaesque’ approach by the Ministry of Defense in response to their request for evidence.

The Royal Courts of Justice

14 May 2012

Lawyers from Leigh Day & Co have voiced their frustration at what they describe as a ‘Kafkaesque’ approach by the Ministry of Defence in response to their request for evidence, which they believe will corroborate the claims of torture by their client, a 24 year old Afghan man currently imprisoned in one of Afghanistan’s most notorious jails after a confession gained at the hands of the Afghan intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security (NDS).

The criticism comes as the High Court in London is asked tomorrow (Tuesday 15th May) to rule on the legality of transfers by British Forces to the NDS.

In a series of letters to the Government’s legal advisers, Leigh Day & Co, the lawyers for Serdar Mohammed have repeatedly asked for the statements from Mr Mohammed as well as photographs of his injuries, showing marks on his wrists and feet consistent with his claims of torture, taken when UK officials visited him in detention in October 2010. They believe this evidence could be crucial to the outcome of his criminal appeal, which is due to be considered by the Afghan Supreme Court any day.

The Ministry of Defence has admitted that British personnel visited Mr Mohammed, a married man with two sons, in detention, and that photographs were taken of marks on his body. However, they have continued to deny his lawyers this evidence.

British officials visited Mr Mohammed as British forces had initially detained him in April 2010. Mr Serdar alleges that he was beaten and kicked by British soldiers whilst detained by them. He also alleges that the soldiers took his photograph in front of a collection of bullets, despite his protests that these were not his.

After two months in detention by the British he was handed over to the NDS at whose hands, Mr Mohammed claims, he was beaten with sticks and electric cables, hooded, suspended by one hand and shackled in excruciating positions for prolonged periods.

On one occasion, his torturers wrenched and twisted his testicles so hard that blood came out of his penis. He eventually signed a ‘confession’ admitting to being a member of the Taliban and was sentenced to 16 years in prison after a trial lasting 15 minutes conducted in a language he didn’t understand.

His claims closely mirror those of other detainees transferred to the NDS interviewed as part of a report released in March this year by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and Open Society Foundations.

Leigh Day & Co are seeking damages from the British Government and a full investigation into Mr Mohammed’s case. They claim the decision by British Forces to detain Mr Mohammed and transfer him to Lashkar Gah prison was in breach of his human rights. Mr Mohammed is requesting that the court order the Government to take all reasonable steps to ensure, while he remains in detention, he does not face any further abuse and that the Government must assist him in overturning his conviction.

He is also asking that all transfers from UK forces to the NDS are ceased immediately to ensure no one else has to risk facing the appalling abuse he has suffered. A permission hearing into his judicial review claim will take place in the Administrative Court on Tuesday 15th May.

Richard Stein, Head of the Human Rights department at Leigh Day & Co said:

“The UK government is currently acting in breach of its human rights obligations. It is failing to ensure those detained by UK forces in Afghanistan and transferred to NDS custody, are not subject to torture. The torture and abuse of detainees in many NDS facilities is prevalent and transfers must be ceased immediately."

Rosa Curling, solicitor at Leigh Day & Co said:

"Our client’s experience shows an immediate ban should be put in place on all transfers from UK custody to Afghan facilities where torture is known to have occurred. The appalling and tragic abuse which our client has suffered must not be allowed to happen to anyone else."

Keren Adams, the lawyer from Leigh Day & Co Solicitors who visited Mr Mohammed in prison whilst he was detained in Afghanistan said:

“Mr Mohammed deserves a fair appeal hearing. The evidence which the Ministry of Defence has freely admitted to having in its possession will ensure that this happens if only they would provide it.”

Cori Crider, the legal director at Reprieve said:

"The Government must not cover up evidence of Mr Mohamed's torture - especially when countless > more may still face the same threat. Taken together with ministers' plans for secret trials in Britain, this paints a picture of a Government more concerned with sweeping abuses under the carpet than with putting a stop to them."

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