BY DANIEL MCGRORY AND ROLAND WATSON
THE Scottish charity worker known as the "Tartan Taleban" is facing years of
hard labour in a Pakistani jail, even though the FBI has admitted that it
wrongly accused him of being an al-Qaeda fighter.
James McLintock, a 37-year-old Muslim convert who was arrested near the
Afghan border on Christmas Eve, always denied American claims that he had
been trying to escape Osama bin Laden's hideout.
He is understood to have been held in solitary confinement and blindfolded
for hours at a time during his interrogation until American officials
realised their error. They have now handed him to the Pakistani authorities,
who are reported to have sentenced him to three years' hard labour for being
in a restricted area without permission.
When Mr McLintock was captured, the Americans portrayed him as evidence of
how Britons were among bin Laden's most trusted aides and at least six other
Britons are still being held - although only one has so far been named.
He is Libyan-born Anas al-Liby, for whom the FBI had offered a $25 million
reward. Al-Liby, 37, is believed to have lived in Manchester, where he is
said to have helped with the compilation of an al-Qaeda terror manual.
He was captured last month and held on the USS Bataan. Yesterday he was
flown to Bagram airfield near Kabul, where British forces are based.
The Bagrum prison has been set up in response to criticism of the US over
its handling of suspects who are being flown to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
Three Britons are among those to have been sent there and the Americans
yesterday agreed to give them consular access for the first time.
Consular officials are also expected to visit Mr McLintock today, although
the Foreign Office is still not sure exactly where he is being held and
diplomats remain confused about what has happened to him. He is thought to
have been sent to a prison in Bannu, a former British garrison 100 miles
from Peshawar but a diplomatic source said: "If they have sentenced him,
they haven't told us."
Mr McLintock converted to Islam and changed his name to Yaqub Mohammed after
dropping out of Dundee University. He moved to Bradford where he met his
Birmingham-born wife, Shaffia Begum, and started working for a Muslim
charity. At the time of his arrest he was the manager of the religious
charity Khuddam-ul-Quran in Karachi, where he was living with his wife and
their four children.
He was held near the Tora Bora mountains where al-Qaeda's high command was
believed to have its hideout, but insists that he was there discussing plans
with local officials to build schools.
Mr McLintock's wife, who denied reports that her husband fought with the
Mujahidin against Soviet forces in the 1980s, is said to distraught at his
continued imprisonment. Friends in Pakistan say that he has had no legal
representation and has been unable to contact his family.
Michael Weir, the SNP MP for Angus in whose constituency Mr McLintock's
parents live, is to raise his plight in the Commons and has contacted Tony
Blair about the "worrying lack of basic information" a month after the
arrest. He said: "Pakistan is a member of the Commonwealth and an ally of
the UK. The Government should be able to get this information."
d@ve @llison, Dundee, Scotland
sic semper tyrannis . . . Vincet veritas