LONDON — Binyam Mohamed, a gaunt-looking, bearded man wearing a cream sweater, white tennis shoes and a white skullcap, stepped off a chartered jet at a British air base Monday from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, closing a dark chapter in his life that he says included brutal torture.
His release by the Obama administration followed a hunger strike and international outrage that he spent seven years in U.S. custody for crimes even the Americans now say they can't prove. His allegations of torture — including repeated beatings and having his genitals sliced by a scalpel — have sparked lawsuits that could ensnare the American and British governments in protracted court battles.
He is the first Guantanamo detainee released since President Obama took office.
Once accused by U.S. authorities of being part of a conspiracy to detonate a bomb on American soil, the 30-year-old Ethiopian refugee, who moved to Britain as a teenager, was captured in Pakistan in 2002. U.S. officials accused him of training with al-Qaida and plotting the attack with a radioactive "dirty" bomb.
He was freed Monday after four hours of questioning. Even before his plane landed, he blasted American and British officials, who he says were complicit in his alleged abuse.
"I have been through an experience that I never thought to encounter in my darkest nightmares," he said in a statement.
During a recent medical examination at Guantanamo, a British doctor who had been sent to assess Mohamed's fitness to travel reportedly found him suffering from bruises, organ damage, stomach complaints, malnutrition, sores on his hands and feet and severe damage to ligaments, as well as emotional and psychological damage.
Mohamed was on a hunger strike from late December until shortly before he was released and was being force-fed through tubes.
The British Foreign Office has been lobbying for Mohamed's release since 2007, but thus far he has been granted only temporary permission to stay in Britain by the Home Office, which oversees the security services. After being interviewed by police, Mohamed was expected to spend time with his family in a quiet location. His lawyers said he had agreed to a series of voluntary security measures, which they wouldn't disclose.
Mohamed was held in several countries after his arrest, including an alleged CIA covert site in Morocco, where he says he was severely tortured before being sent to Guantanamo in 2005.