A group of former Guantanamo Bay detainees who claim they were tortured with the complicity of the British security services have been paid millions of pounds to drop legal action against the Government.
Ministers will announce on Tuesday that a deal has been reached with the men, at least one of whom is expected to receive more than £1 million of taxpayers’ money.
The former terrorism suspects, some of whom were foreign residents claiming asylum in Britain, were suing the Government for damages over their treatment while in custody. The security services are thought to have pushed for the settlement in order to avoid details of their secret activities being disclosed in court.
Both MI5 and MI6 could have been forced to disclose information that could have threatened national security. Already some information from the defence was starting to slip out, causing anxiety among some senior officials.
The cost of a long running court case – which could have run into tens of millions of pounds – are also likely to have been a factor.
MPs are expected to be told of the finalised deal on Tuesday, ITV news reported, but details are likely to remain vague.
Binyam Mohamed, a British resident who was returned to this country last year is expected to receive one of the biggest payouts. He claims he was tortured while at the Guantanamo Bay facility and has gained high profile backing for his case from civil rights campaigners.
David Cameron announced in July that an official inquiry would only begin once the outstanding legal claims were settled. But that investigation, under former Appeal Court judge Sir Peter Gibson, will now be free to start.
It will focus on the detention of UK nationals and residents in Guantanamo Bay in the aftermath of the terror attacks on 11 September 2001.
It will also look at what role “rendition flights” had in any torture cases and what the British services knew.
Mr Cameron told MPs that the security services risked being “paralysed by paperwork” as they tried to defend themselves in lengthy court cases against allegations of complicity in torture.
MI5 and MI6 have had to draft in dozens of lawyers and take officers off front-line duties as they wade through an estimated 250,000 documents “page by page”, according to one official.
They estimated that the court action could last five to 10 years as they worked through the documents and decided what could be disclosed and what could not.
Others former terrorist suspects expected to receive settlements are Bisher Al Rawi, Jamil El Banna, Richard Belmar, Omar Deghayes, Moazzam Begg and Martin Mubanga. One allegation is that the British government knew they were being illegally transferred to Guantanamo Bay but failed to prevent it.
It is also claimed that the security and intelligence services provided questions to be used in the interrogation of some of them.
By Andrew Porter, Political Editor 11:27PM GMT 15 Nov 2010
Source: The Telegraph