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Other News: Guantanamo Prisoner Released; Three U.S. Soldiers Killed in Iraq

February 23, 2009 at 6:15 PM EST
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GWEN IFILL: In other news today, a prisoner held for four years at Guantanamo Bay was released back to Britain. Binyam Mohamed claimed he endured medieval torture while in U.S. custody. He’s the first detainee to be released under the Obama administration.

We have a report from Simon Israel of Independent Television News.

SIMON ISRAEL: A Gulfstream jet delivered the released detainee to RAF Northolt at lunchtime to mark the end of nearly four-and-a-half years’ incarceration in Guantanamo. Onboard not just a doctor, but several police officers and foreign office officials, too.

The tall, lanky and stooped figure of Binyam Mohamed disembarked under escort of counterterrorism officers. One had a camera in his hand, presumably to record the physical condition of someone who was not so long ago on hunger strike and said to be at death’s door.

Binyam Mohamed was arrested in Pakistan in 2002 as he tried to leave the country on suspicion of planning to detonate a dirty bomb in the U.S. He alleges he was detained for four months and interrogated by a British intelligence officer, then flown to Morocco on a CIA flight, a victim, his lawyers say, of extraordinary rendition.

In Morocco, he claims, he was tortured and abused while under interrogation by the Moroccans, who were armed with questions from MI5. Binyam was transferred to Afghanistan in 2004 and again allegedly tortured and then on to Guantanamo, where he’s remained for the last four years, until charges were finally dropped and he was released today.

Morocco, the United States, and MI5 deny all these allegations.

DAVID MILIBAND, foreign secretary, United Kingdom: There’s been no suggestion of British direct help. Britain never condones or cooperates in torture, and any allegations of torture are immediately followed up.

SIMON ISRAEL: Tonight, his lawyers simply wanted to focus on the return home.

CLIVE STAFFORD SMITH, attorney for Binyam Mohamed: Binyam just met his sister for the first time in seven years. There was a very tearful reunion. It was wonderful to see it. It’s a fantastic day.

SIMON ISRAEL: The former detainee may well be in demand, but tonight he’s been released from detention and off to, in his words, begin his road to recovery.

GWEN IFILL: Today, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder began a visit to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay. The Obama administration is currently weighing its options in closing the facility.

Three U.S. soldiers and their interpreter were killed in Iraq. The U.S. military reported they died in combat in Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad. For the month of February, 13 Americans have died in Iraq.

There are new reports that North Korea is continuing to enhance its ballistic missile capability. The South Korean Defense Ministry reported the North has deployed mid-range missiles that can travel more than 1,800 miles, within striking distance of Australia, the U.S. territory of Guam, and Russia. The new missile is believed to be the same type displayed at a military parade in North Korea in 2007.