This article's factual accuracy may be compromised due to out-of-date information. (November 2010)
el-Banna in 2008
|Born||May 28, 1952|
Jericho, West Bank
- Jordanian citizen
- refugee status in the United Kingdom
|Detained at||Guantanamo Bay camp|
|Alleged to be a member of||al-Qaeda|
|Spouse||Sabah El-Banna - December 8, 1964|
|Children||El-Banna is a father of five:|
Anas - December 17, 1996
Mohamed - December 22, 1997
Abdulrahman - May 10, 1999
Badeah - February 11, 2001
Mariam - April 13, 2003
Jamil el-Banna (Arabic: ? , ?am?l ?Abdu 'l-Laf al-Bann) (born May 28, 1952) is a Jordanian of Palestinian origin with refugee status in the United Kingdom who had been living in northwest London. He was abducted in November 2002 by the CIA from Gambia while on a business trip and suffered extraordinary rendition to Bagram, where he was held and interrogated by the CIA until March 2003. He was transferred to military custody at Guantanamo Bay detainment camp in March 2003 and held there until December 19, 2007.
Following his release and return to the United Kingdom, Jamil el-Banna was arrested and questioned when arriving in London, on charges by a Spanish court. He was allowed bail. Spain dropped its charges in March 2008.
Jamil el-Banna was born in Jericho, West Bank in 1952, after the nation of Israel was established. Soon after his birth, his family moved into Jordan, where they were housed at a refugee camp near Amman. Jamil dropped out of school at age 10, and fell into petty crime.
In 1994, he made his way to the United Kingdom, where he successfully applied for refugee status. He lived in northwest London.
Jamil and Bisher al-Rawi flew to Gambia to meet a shipment of machine parts to be used to set up an edible oil factory, which was owned by Bisher's brother. The two men, along with two others, were taken into custody by the Gambian National Intelligence Agency on their arrival at Banjul airport in Gambia on November 8, 2002, purportedly on suspicion of alleged links to al-Qaeda and advice from British security authorities. At first the two men were under a kind of unofficial house arrest. They were not formally charged with any crimes under Gambian law. They were told that they would be released when their machinery had been checked to make sure it was not something that could be used for terrorism.
They were not detained in a Gambian jail, but rather in a CIA "snatch team" safe house, which was provided by American security officials. They were guarded by Gambians and interrogated by American agents.
In late December 2002, the CIA decided to transport them from Gambia. The "black team" that arrived to escort them wore black uniforms, and their faces were covered by black balaclavas. They cut the clothes from the detainees' bodies and bound them for transportation. The two men were illegally "rendered" to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, where Jamil el-Banna was imprisoned underground in total darkness for weeks.
Once in the main portion of the airbase prison, he met Moazzam Begg, a British citizen whose bookshop he had visited in England. Nicknamed "Kenny Rogers", el-Banna once entertained American guards by singing half a verse of "Coward of the County".
The Guardian reported that Clive Stafford Smith, Jamil el-Banna's lawyer, said his client had participated in both the hunger strike that ended when the camp authorities made promises on July 28, 2005, and a second that started on August 8. They were protesting the detention without charges, and abuses and mistreatment. Smith said that Jamil told him that one of the reasons for the second hunger strike was that guards were still searching through the prisoner's copies of the Qur'an by hand.
A December 2005 article in The Times repeated Jamil's claim that his American interrogators told him that MI5 had colluded in his extraordinary rendition. The lawyers of Guantanamo Bay detainees have to hand in all their notes to the authorities, which consider them "classified". The lawyers may only examine their own notes in a single secure location near Washington, DC. The Times reported material from Stafford Smith's notes on conversations with his client, which were recently declassified:
In Cuba one interrogator is alleged to have told el-Banna: 'Why are you angry at America? It is your government, Britain, the MI5, who called the CIA and told them you and Bisher were in Gambia and to come and get you. Britain gave everything to us. Britain sold you out to the CIA.'
Jamil el-Banna said that he was offered $10 million, and a US passport by US agents, if he would testify against Abu Qatada. According to The Times, he said:
When he refused, an interrogator told him: 'I am going to London . . . I am going to fuck your wife. Your wife is going to be my bitch. Maybe you'll never see your children again.'
El-Banna is married and the father of five children. His youngest daughter was born after his abduction by the Gambians.
Dear Sir Tony Blair, I am a boy called Anas Jamil El-Banna. I am 7 years old. Me and my four brothers are writing to you this letter from my heart because I miss my father. I am wishing that you can help me and my father. I am always asking mother, Where is my father, when will he come back? And my mother says I don't know.
Now I have started to know that my father is in prison in a place called Cuba and I don't know the reason why and I don't know where is Cuba. I hope that you can help me because I miss my father. Every night I think of my dad and I cry in a very low voice so that my mother doesn't hear, and I dream that he is coming home and gives me a big, big hug.
Every Eid I wait for my father to come back. I hope to God that you can help me to bring my daddy back to me. I don't want anything, I just want my daddy please.
Please Mr Blair can you bring my daddy back to me on this Eid. I wish you a happy life with your children in your house. Love Anas - 7 years old, Mohamed - 6 years, Abdulrahman - 4 years, Badeah - 3 years, Mariam - 9 months-- Anas Jamil El-Banna writing to Tony Blair to free his father
A November 1, 2006, article in the Willesden & Brent Times reported that el-Banna was allowed his first phone call to his wife on October 19, 2006, after four years' detention. At the time, it was rare for detainees to be allowed a phone call to their family. This phone call was el-Banna's first. It is not known why this concession was made, although el-Banna's MP, Sarah Teather, had previously asked US authorities to allow some contact.
According to el-Banna' wife:
He told me that when the prison guards led him away from his camp, he thought he was going to be interrogated again. He didn't even know he was going to speak to me, so hearing my voice was a complete shock to him.-- Mrs al-Banna
On March 29, 2007, UK Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett announced that the UK Government had negotiated the return from Guantanamo of el-Banna's traveling companion, Bisher al-Rawi, also a legal British resident. According to the Associated Press, Beckett issued a statement to Parliament:
We have now agreed with the U.S. authorities that Mr. al-Rawi will be returned to the U.K. shortly, as soon as the practical arrangements have been made, This decision follows extensive discussions to address the security implications of Mr. Al-Rawi's return.
Beckett's announcement did not refer to el-Banna, or the other remaining former UK residents who were still held in Guantanamo. The cases of Jamil el-Banna and other former British legal residents have been controversial within the UK, as there was growing public sentiment for the government to seek their release. It had not acted for former residents as it had for British citizens. All the British nationals imprisoned at Guantanamo were freed before September 2004, following British Government pressure on the United States.
On August 7, 2007, the United Kingdom government requested the release of Jamil el-Banna and four other foreign nationals who had been legal British residents. The UK government warned its public that the negotiations might take months.
Jamil el-Banna was released from Guantanamo Bay on November 18, 2007, and flown back to Britain. On his return, he was detained under port and border controls and questioned. On November 19, he was arrested under a Spanish extradition warrant for allegedly having been connected to al-Qaeda in Madrid. On December 20, he was released on bail of £50,000, part of which was put up by the actress Vanessa Redgrave; conditions of his bail include observing a curfew and wearing an electronic tag.
On his return, Omar Deghayes was also arrested and questioned, before appearing in court on a Spanish extradition warrant. He was freed on bail on December 20, conditions of which include obeying a curfew and wearing an electronic tag.
On March 6, 2008, Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon dropped the extradition request on humanitarian grounds. Garzon based his decision on a medical examination made public on February 12, 2008. The report said El Banna suffered from: "post-traumatic stress syndrome, severe depression and suicidal tendencies. Garzon ruled the two men's mental health had deteriorated so badly it would be cruel to prosecute them.
On April 29, 2009, that Spanish investigating magistrate Baltazar Garzon initiated a formal investigation into whether confessions from Ikassrien, and three other former Guantanamo captives were the result of the use of abusive interrogation techniques. El-Banna and the other three men: Hamed Abderrahman Ahmed, Lahcen Ikassrien, and Omar Deghayes, had previously faced charges in Spanish courts, based on confessions they made while in US custody. The charges had been dropped based on their claims that their confessions were false and were the result of abusive interrogation techniques.
The Spanish magistrate initiated an investigation into torture at Guantanamo.