Moazzam Begg

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Person.png Moazzam Begg  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Moazzam Begg.jpg
Sparkhill, Birmingham, UK
CitizenshipUnited Kingdom,  Pakistan
ParentsAzmat Begg (father)
SpouseZaynab Begg
Victim of • extrajudicial detention
• torture
Moazzam Begg banged up in both Guantanamo Bay and HMP Belmarsh

Moazzam Begg is a British Pakistani citizen who was held in extrajudicial detention by the US Government in the Bagram Theater Internment Facility and the Guantanamo Bay detainment camp, in Cuba, for nearly three years after being arrested in Pakistan in February 2002.[1] Arrested by Pakistani police at his home, he was transferred to the custody of US Army officers, who took him first to their detention centre at Bagram, Afghanistan.

The Pentagon claimed Begg was an enemy combatant and al-Qaeda member, who recruited for al-Qaeda, provided money for their training camps, and trained at their camps in Afghanistan to fight US or allied troops.[2][3] Begg has said he spent time at two Islamic training camps in Afghanistan, supported militant Muslim fighters, bought a rifle and a handgun, and was acquainted with persons linked to terrorism, but he denies the remainder of the US's allegations.[4]

Begg says that when he was incarcerated at Bagram, he was abused, which the Pentagon denies. He has claimed that he witnessed two detainees being beaten to death while detained at Bagram. After an investigation, in 2005 United States officials concluded the detainees were murdered by American soldiers.[5]

The UK Government intervened on behalf of its citizens detained at Guantánamo; most were released in 2004. President George W. Bush had Begg released without charge on 25 January 2005. The Pentagon, CIA, and FBI had objected, concerned that Begg could still be a dangerous terrorist. Begg and other British citizens who had been detained at Guantánamo sued the British government for complicity in their alleged abuse and torture while in the custody of the United States. In November 2010, the British Government announced that it had reached a financial settlement out of court with several men, including Begg.[6]

After his release, Begg became a commentator on radio and television on issues pertaining to the UK Muslim community, and UK and worldwide anti-terror measures. He toured as a speaker, lecturing about his time in Guantanamo and other detention facilities. Referring to 2010 Afghanistan, he said he completely supported the inalienable right of the people to fight "foreign occupation".[7] Begg co-authored a book, and has written broadsheet and magazine articles.

In 2010, Gita Sahgal, then the head of Amnesty International's gender unit, publicly criticised her organisation for its association with Begg, who was speaking about Guantánamo and trying to persuade nations to accept its released detainees who could not return to their countries of origin. She said the association was "a gross error of judgment". She was suspended and later resigned. On 25 February 2014, Begg was arrested by the West Midlands police on suspicion of attending a terrorist training camp and facilitating terrorism overseas.[8] West Midlands Police said:

"This is an arrest, not a charge, and ... our naming does not imply any guilt."[9]

On 1 March 2014 Begg was charged with providing terrorist training and funding terrorism overseas, regarding Syria, and appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court, entering a plea of not guilty. He appeared along with a woman, Gerrie Tahari, 44, from Sparkbrook, Birmingham, also accused of funding terrorism overseas.[10] He was scheduled for a plea hearing on 14 July 2014, provisionally followed by a trial at the Old Bailey on 6 October 2014.[11]

On 1 October 2014 it was announced that the seven Syria-related terror charges against him had been dropped, and that he would be released from HMP Belmarsh the same day.[12] Moazzam Begg's lawyer Gareth Peirce described him as a "brave" and "rare" individual. She said:

"There is nothing new that can have been discovered now that was not always crystal clear - that this is an innocent man."[13]

On 2 October 2014 Craig Murray called for Theresa May's resignation:

"There was never any doubt that the accusation of terrorism against Moazzam Begg was, once again, a tissue of politically motivated lies. What is still more appalling, I am told by a Home Office source that the decision to arrest and detain him was taken by Theresa May herself. This involvement of politicians in the abuse of individuals by the state is appalling."[14]