Ministers have been accused of “hiding” and unnecessarily refusing to answer questions about whether or not and when a former British Guantanamo Bay inmate was paid £1m in compensation before going on to act as a suicide bomber on behalf of Isis.
Jamal al-Harith, who was born in Manchester, blew himself up in Mosul, Iraq, earlier this week. In 2002 he was picked up by US forces in Afghanistan and sent to Guantanamo. He was released in 2004 after Tony Blair’s government lobbied for him to be returned to the UK. In 2014 he travelled to Syria.
It has been reported Harith was among a group of British former Guantanamo inmates who received large payouts from the British government after being released.
Yesterday Blair said that while it was his government that lobbied for him to be released, it was David Cameron’s 2010 government that agreed the compensation.
However ministers have refused to confirm the reports or give details.
Yvette Cooper, the Labour chair of the Commons home affairs committee, said today the government had “provided far too little information about such a serious case” involving such a “deeply dangerous man”.
Speaking in the Commons, shadow home secretary Diane Abbott accused Conservative security minister Ben Walle of having “chosen to hide behind the notion of sensitive intelligence to fail to answer even the simplest factual questions about this case”.
But Wallace refused to give details answers on the grounds he was legally not allowed. “I can not do that. That has never been the practise of this government, the last government, or the government before that,” he said.
“We are not hiding behind the phrase. We having to oblige ourselves in line with the legally bind confidentiality agreement made between Her Majesty’s Government and the parties involved,” he said of the reported compensation.
Wallace suggested Abbott was attempting to “to encourage me to break the law and reveal deals of that compensation”.
But former shadow cabinet minister Chris Bryant dismissed Wallace’s answer. “Mystified by the government saying they won’t give any details of their deal with Jamal al Harith due to legal confidentiality. He’s dead!,” he said.
A spokesperson for Theresa May said today: “There is a longstanding tradition that the Government does not comment on security matters.”