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'Torture' detainee wins challenge

An Afghan detainee who says he was subjected to torture after being handed over to the Afghan authorities following capture by British forces has won permission to challenge the legality of his transfer.

Serdar Mohammed, 24, was given leave to seek judicial review by Mr Justice Collins, sitting at the High Court in London.

His lawyers say that, after the transfer, he was tortured into confessing that he was a member of the Taliban by the National Directorate of Security (NDS), the Afghanistan intelligence service, and is now serving a six-year prison sentence.

The judge ruled that the father-of-two had "an arguable case" that should go to a full hearing, but stressed his decision did not mean that the challenge would necessarily succeed.

The judge said that - in part as a result of the case - Defence Secretary Philip Hammond had now stopped all transfers of detainees from British forces to the Afghan authorities "as part of an ongoing review".

The judge also gave peace campaigner Maya Evans permission to bring a linked legal challenge. Both cases are being brought on legal aid. The judge rejected Ministry of Defence submissions that the twin challenge was too costly for the public purse and that only one case should have been given the go-ahead.

Lawyers for Serdar Mohammed said he was initially detained by British soldiers in April 2010 and beaten and kicked. He is about to launch a separate civil claim for damages in the UK courts over those allegations.

After being held by the British for two months, he was handed over to the NDS and claims that he suffered beatings with sticks and electric cables. His counsel Ben Jaffey told the court he signed a confession that he was a member of the Taliban following the ill-treatment.

An MoD spokesman said: "Detention operations are an important part of our force protection measures protecting our people, our allies and partners, and the Afghan civilian population. They also directly contribute to the success of the NATO ISAF mission in Afghanistan and ultimately to UK national security.

"In response to a recent UK inspection there is a temporary hold on transfers while we assure ourselves that UK detainees are not at risk of serious mistreatment or torture."

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