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September 12, 2009

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Cops probe claims of torture by UK spies

BRITISH police are investigating an allegation that the country's MI6 overseas espionage agency was involved in torture, the second inquiry launched in recent months examining the conduct of the country's spies.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who oversees MI6, said the agency had referred a case to the government's chief legal adviser, Patricia Scotland, who ruled that police should carry out an inquiry.

Scotland Yard said yesterday it would investigate "the conditions under which a non-Briton was held and the potential involvement of British personnel."

Opposition Conservative legislator William Hague wrote to Miliband and Prime Minister Gordon Brown to ask them to consider allegations made by a parliamentary committee that both MI6 and MI5, Britain's domestic intelligence service, may have been complicit in the torture of detainees in Pakistan, Egypt and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

But police and Britain's Foreign Office will not provide further details of the complaint being investigated, or specify where and when the alleged torture is said to have taken place.

"The government wholeheartedly condemns torture. We will not condone it. Neither will we ever ask others to do it on our behalf," Miliband said in a letter to Hague.

"This is not mere rhetoric but a principled stance consistent with our unequivocal commitment to human rights. We are fortunate to have the best security and intelligence services and armed forces in the world. "

Police said the complaint was not connected to an inquiry launched in July into the alleged torture of ex-Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed.

Mohamed, an Ethiopian who moved to Britain as a teenager, claims he was tortured in Pakistan and Morocco after he was arrested in 2002, and that British intelligence officers were aware of this.

Now released from Guantanamo Bay, Mohamed alleges British intelligence officials supplied questions to his interrogators.

MI5 has said it should have done more to seek reassurances about Mohamed.

Last month, outgoing MI6 chief John Scarlett denied that his officers tortured terror suspects.

"Our officers are as committed to the values, and the human rights values, of liberal democracy as anybody else," he told the BBC.


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