After he was first arrested at Karachi Airport three months earlier, Mohamed said that soon after the first questions from Americans, Pakistani interrogators followed up by hanging him by a leather strap round his wrist, beating him, and then threatening him with a pistol to the head. Then, when this stopped, an agent from British intelligence came to hint to him that he should cooperate or face being sent to be tortured by Arabs.
When he was flown to Morocco, he said, it got worse. He was beaten with savagery and at one stage cut over his genitals with razor blades. Again there was a British connection, he alleged. A book of photographs of people at a London mosque had been shown to him, as well as questions posed about his life back in Notting Hill. The agents called their paperwork the "British file."
In Jan. 2004, Mohamed said he was rendered onwards by the Americans to Kabul, Afghanistan (again confirmed by CIA flight records). This time he was held in a covert CIA "black site" known as the Dark Prison. Inmates here were held day and night without light while being bombarded with constant loud music, he claims.
Only after a journey of over two years between secret prisons did Mohamed, by his account, emerge from clandestine detention to the more open but still harsh world of U.S. military detention. And in Guantanamo, he finally got to tell his story to British lawyer Clive Stafford Smith.
Born in 1978, the son of an Ethiopian airlines worker, Mohamed's family had moved to Washington, DC when he was young, and then he and his father had moved on to London, where he lived from the age of 16 to 22.
Some time in the spring of 2001, Mohamed travelled to Afghanistan. According to later claims by the U.S. Government (and it is not clear which, if any, charges U.S. prosecutors still aim to pursue), he attended training at al Qaeda camps, went on the run after 9/11 and became a companion of a former street gangster from Chicago named Jose Padilla, or the so-called 'dirty bomber.' The pair were said to have associated with al Qaeda leaders like Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohamed and to have hatched plots to explode a devastating bomb in the U.S. Mohamed has vehemently denied knowing these men – or having any connection with terrorism.
While Padilla was arrested in May 2002 - he returned to the U.S. and was later convicted of lesser charges - Mohamed was arrested a month earlier in Karachi when he tried to board a flight to Europe using a false passport. With American intelligence alerted, his journey through the detention system began here.
During his detention, Mohamed made several confessions. He argued later these were all forced by torture. But, with the U.S. refusing to to confirm, even in court, any aspect of its secret program of rendition and secret detention, he, like most other subjects of rendition, have struggled to find positive proof to document that physical abuse.
The twist in his story came from lawsuits filed in London that effectively forced the British government, against its earlier wishes, to take up the cases of Guantanamo detainees like Mohamed who, while legally resident in Britain, were not UK citizens. This development forced the Government in Mohamed's case to reveal what evidence was held in secret British intelligence files that might be useful to proving his innocence.