Guess which paper campaigned for al-Harith's release?
Today’s Daily Mail points its righteous finger at Tony Blair, accusing the former Labour Party Prime Minister of being cuddly towards Jamal al-Harith, the British ISIS fighter who blew himself up in Iraq on Monday.
But in a novel intervention, Blair has responded today, noting that the £1 million compensation al-Harith received for his treatment in Guantanamo Bay was paid out not by Labour, but by David Cameron’s Tories in 2010, and that the campaign for al-Harith’s release was led by, er, the Daily Mail.
In a statement on his website, Blair said:
“I would not normally respond to daily stories about events which happened during my time in office but on this occasion I will do so, given the utter hypocrisy with which this story is being covered.
The Daily Mail is running a story entitled ‘Still Think He Wasn’t A Danger, Mr Blair? Fury at Labour government’s £1m compensation for innocent Brit’, regarding news a former Guantanamo Bay detainee launched a suicide attack on behalf of ISIS this week.
It is correct that Jamal al-Harith was released from Guantanamo Bay at the request of the British government in 2004. This followed a massive media and parliamentary campaign, led by the Daily Mail, the very paper that is now supposedly so outraged at his release and strongly supported by the then Conservative opposition.
The Mail headline shortly after he was released after months of their campaigning was ‘Freedom At Last for Guantanamo Britons‘.
They then quoted with approval various human rights activists saying ‘clearly by what’s happened they’re not bad guys, they are entirely innocent.’”
Blair went on to say when al-Harith’s release was announced ‘in very measured terms’ in 2004, ‘Conservative MPs reacted by strongly criticising not the release but why it had taken so long’.
“The fact is that this was always a very difficult situation where any government would have to balance proper concern for civil liberties with desire to protect our security, and we were likely to be attacked whatever course we took.
The reason it did take a long time for their release was precisely the anxiety over their true affiliations. […]
But those who demanded their release should not be allowed to get away with now telling us that it is a scandal that it happened.”
ISIS released a video last night of British citizen Jamal al-Harith taking part in a suicide/homicide car bomb attack on an Iraqi army base in Mosul.
Iraqi troops have been fighting to liberate Mosul from ISIS control since October with support from British and other coalition air strikes.
Adam Barnett is staff writer for Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBarnett13