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THE FORGOTTEN HOSTAGE

05-04-2007

The return of 15 British military “hostages” from Iran is a cause for celebration, but Dr David Nicholl reminds us that there are captives who've been held for years by our allies without enjoying the right to a trial.

We all welcome the return of the 15 navy sailors from their ordeal in Iran. The idea of being held hostage indefinitely is truly terrifying.

This week also saw the return of another hostage to the UK, Bisher al Rawi, who never quite made the same media splash as the sailors did, even though both groups have been directly involved in fighting Islamic extremists.

Bisher had been living in the UK for over 25 years; he was grateful to the UK as we had given his family refuge after they had been tortured by Sadaam Hussein. Thus he was more than happy to assist M15 with observing radicals like Abu Qatada - suspected by the UK authorities of being one of Osama Bin Laden's henchmen.

So it was something of a surprise that Bisher was arrested by the CIA on a business trip to the Gambia - along with his friend Jamil el Banna.

They were on a journey to set up a peanut factory, but instead were 'extraordinary renditioned' to either Egypt or Afghanistan and finally both ended up in Guantanamo Bay.

The UK government refuses to intervene for any UK residents being held in Guantanamo but when they realised the huge embarrassment of Bisher's M15 connection last year, they agreed to make an exception. It then took a further year to get his release quietly at the weekend.

Jamil el Banna remains locked up though, even though he has never been convicted of any terrorist offence - or even formally accused of one.

Thus while we are overjoyed at the release of all hostages this week, please spare a thought for people like Jamil el Banna, who like Bisher, have yet to be charged with anything after 5 years in Guantanamo.

Spare a thought, because neither our government or the tabloid press will.

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