This morning, at the Old Bailey, the Crown Prosecution Service dropped all charges against Moazzam Begg, the former Guantánamo prisoner, who had been arrested in February on the basis of an alleged involvement in terrorism relating to visits he had made to Syria in 2012.
As I explained in an article at the time, “The Suspicious Arrest of Former Guantánamo Prisoner Moazzam Begg,” and in a radio interview with the US reporter Andrea Sears, it was impossible to believe that Begg, one of the most scrutinised Muslims in the UK, would have engaged in any activities that could be construed as terrorism.
He had indeed visited Syria, but had been in search of information relating to the US torture program that the Syrian government undertook on America’s behalf from 2002 onwards. Moreover, after his first visit in the summer of 2012, and before his second and last visit in December, the UK security services had interviewed him and had not attempted to prevent him from underraking his second visit. Read the rest of this entry »
Yesterday evening, in my article, “The Suspicious Arrest of Former Guantánamo Prisoner Moazzam Begg,” I mentioned how I had just been interviewed by the journalist Andrea Sears in New York. I spoke to Andrea about the arrest of Moazzam Begg, discussing and expanding upon my interpretation of the story as later published in my article.
The show, 11 minutes in length, is here (or via the Left Voices website here), and I hope you have time to listen to it, and to share it if you find it useful. As I explained, “it’s implausible to me that a man so well known and obviously under scrutiny … is going to become mixed up in anything that could be construed legitimately as terrorism, because that would make him such an obvious target of the British government.”
I also spoke about how profoundly alarming it is that Theresa May, the British home secretary, has taken upon herself the power to strip British citizens of their citizenship — and in some cases then letting the US know where these people are so that they can be killed in drone strikes — if she suspects that they are somehow involved in terrorism, even though this involves no due process or objective scrutiny, and even though, as I also pointed out, both the British and American governments have an extremely poor record when it comes to identifying people who are genuinely involved in terrorism, as opposed to, say, humanitarian aid or missionary work, as is evident from the cases of numerous men held at Guantánamo. Read the rest of this entry »
I received the news yesterday that former Guantánamo prisoner Moazzam Begg had been arrested when I was sent an email from Juliet Spare, a journalist working for the Voice of Russia, asking me for a short interview by phone. Once alerted to it, I checked out the coverage (mainly, at that point, the BBC), and spoke to her for a show that was broadcast yesterday, but is not available online, explaining how, to me, it made no sense that, with three other people, he had been “detained on suspicion of attending a terrorist training camp and facilitating terrorism overseas,” as the BBC put it, for a number of reasons.
First and foremost, while Moazzam was held by the US, from January 2002 to January 2005, there was never any credible evidence that he was involved with terrorism in any way, and this is an analysis that I endorse from my reading of his autobiography, Enemy Combatant, and from my own knowledge of Moazzam, based on meeting him on several occasions over the years at events involving Guantánamo.
Secondly, Moazzam must be one of the most scrutinised Muslims in the UK, so — even without the proviso that he has no track record of being a terrorist sympathiser – it seems ridiculous to me that he would get involved with anything that could be construed as terrorism, as it would obviously cause him trouble back in the UK. Moazzam has, on a few occasions since his passport was first returned to him after Guantánamo, spoken to me about his annoyance at being permanently harassed when he left or returned to the UK, but, while this was clearly irritating — and a form of harassment — it also meant that he was aware that he was permanently under scrutiny. Read the rest of this entry »
Last November, a war crimes tribunal established in Malaysia “found George Bush and Tony Blair guilty of ‘crimes against peace’ and other war crimes for their 2003 aggressive attack on Iraq, as well as fabricating pretexts used to justify the attack,” as Glenn Greenwald explained at the time. The seven-member Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal, established in 2007 by Mahathir bin Mohamad, the Prime Minister of Malaysia from 1981 to 2003, “has no formal enforcement power,” as Greenwald also explained, “but was modeled after a 1967 tribunal in Sweden and Denmark that found the US guilty of a war of aggression in Vietnam, and, even more so, after the US-led Nuremberg Tribunal held after World War II.”
The tribunal “ruled that Bush and Blair’s name should be entered in a register of war criminals, urged that they be recognized as such under the Rome Statute, and also petitioned the International Criminal Court “to proceed with binding charges.” Though symbolic, the purpose was hugely important, as a Malaysian lawyer explained at the time, saying, “For these people who have been immune from prosecution, we want to put them on trial in this forum to prove that they committed war crimes.” In other words, as Greenwald stated, “because their own nations refuse to hold them accountable and can use their power to prevent international bodies from doing so, the tribunal wanted at least formal legal recognition of these war crimes to be recorded and the evidence of their guilt assembled.”
Greenwald also noted, “That’s the same reason a separate panel of this tribunal will hold hearings later this year on charges of torture” against senior US officials, and last week this second tribunal convened, hearing from three witnesses — former Guantánamo prisoner Moazzam Begg, and Abbas Abid and Jameela Abbas, both victims of US torture in Iraq, as well as receiving written submissions from other victims. Read the rest of this entry »
Last week, when I cross-posted an article written for the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo by my friend Todd Pierce, I also noted that when I visited the US in January to campaign for the closure of Guantánamo Bay, I was so busy that I did not have time to cross-post other articles of interest that were published at the time, and added, “In the hope of keeping alive some of that spirit of awareness about the ongoing injustice of Guantánamo that flickered briefly to life around the anniversary, I’m planning to cross-post some of these articles.”
After starting with Todd’s article, I’m now moving on to a detailed article that was published in Germany’s Stern Magazine — available here as a PDF, and helpfully translated into English for Cageprisoners, via Google Translate, in a translation that I have tidied up.
The article features interviews with five former prisoners — Sami al-Laithi (aka el-Leithi), an Egyptian; Omar Deghayes, a British resident; Mohammed el-Gharani, a Chadian and former child prisoner; Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, an Afghan and a former Taliban ambassador; and Abu Bakker Qassim, a Uighur (a Muslim from China’s Xinjiang province) released from Guantánamo to Albania. The stories of all of these men have been reported before, but fresh eyes and ears are also ways useful to continue to expose the horrific history of Guantánamo, and its ongoing injustices, and the Stern article also featured a collection of powerful photos, as well as quotes from other prisoners — David Hicks (from Australia), Murat Kurnaz (from Germany) and Moazzam Begg (from the UK). Read the rest of this entry »
On Tuesday January 24, at 7 pm, there will be a special screening of the acclaimed documentary film “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington) at the European Parliament in Brussels. The screening will take place in the main European Parliament building, the Altiero Spinelli Building, Rue Wiertz, in Room ASP – 3G2, on the 3rd floor, and Moazzam Begg, former Guantánamo prisoner, and the director of the NGO Cageprisoners, will be joining Andy Worthington and Polly Nash for the screening, and for the Q&A session afterwards.
The screening has been arranged by Jean Lambert (UK Green MEP), with the support of Sarah Ludford (UK Liberal Democrat MEP) and Ana Gomes (Portuguese Socialist MEP), and the purpose of the screening is to raise awareness of the continued existence of Guantánamo, and its mockery of universal notions of fairness and justice, ten years after the prison opened, on January 11, 2002. Given President Obama’s very public failure to close the prison as promised, it is essential that other countries step forward to take cleared prisoners who cannot be safely repatriated, and one of the main purposes of the screening and the visit of Moazzam Begg and Andy Worthington is to encourage EU countries to re-engage with the process of resettling prisoners that was so successful in 2009 and 2010.
The screening is free, but anyone who wishes to attend needs to contact Rachel Sheppard, the Parliamentary Assistant to Jean Lambert MEP. If those wishing to attend do not already have an access badge for the European Parliament, they need to provide their full name, date of birth, nationality, passport number or ID card and number and also specify the type of document (passport, ID card) so that access badges can be arranged. Without an access badge, those wishing to attend the screening will not be allowed. Read the rest of this entry »
I arrived in New York yesterday, a year after my last visit, for 12 days of events to mark the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo (as described here), with a particular focus on a rally and march in Washington D.C. next Wednesday, January 11 (the actual date of the opening of Guantánamo). On arrival, I was met by Debra Sweet, national director of The World Can’t Wait, who arranged my visit, and we immediately made our way to the Brecht Forum on the West Side Highway for a fascinating event, “Building a Movement to Close Guantánamo and End All Unjust Detentions,” which focused on building bridges between those working to close Guantánamo and those campaigning against unjust trials and detentions in the US. There I was delighted to meet up, for the first time since last January, with Pardiss Kebriaei and Leili Kashani of the Center for Constitutional Rights (with whom I have been working on reports forthe 10th anniversary, to be published very soon), and also with another old friend, Guantánamo attorney and law professor Ramzi Kassem, and also Faisal Hashmi of the Muslim Justice Initiative, the brother of Fahad Hashmi, whose unfair extradition from the UK and unfair trial and disproportionately punitive sentence in the US in 2010 — after three and a half years kept in isolation in New York — I wrote about here.
I hope to write more about this event and others in the coming days, but for now, while I’m absolutely delighted to be here, meeting up with old friends, making new friends and campaigning for the closure of Guantánamo where it matters the most, I’m also pleased to note that a number of compelling events have been lined up in London, which I’m delighted to publicize below:
Saturday January 7, 2012, 2-4pm: Shut Guantánamo – End 10 Years of Shame
Public Rally, Trafalgar Square, London, at the top of the steps outside the National Gallery.
This event is organized by the London Guantánamo Campaign, the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, Stop the War Coalition and CND. Read the rest of this entry »
With the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo fast approaching (on January 11), I was delighted that, on Sunday, the Observer not only ran a double-page feature about the British ex-prisoners (and Shaker Aamer, the last British prisoner still held), but also that Tracy McVeigh, Chief Reporter for the Observer, spoke to me on the phone, quoted me in the article, and used my phrase “toxic legacy” to describe Guantánamo since outgoing President George W. Bush handed it on to President Obama, who, notoriously, failed to close it within a year, as he promised when he took office three years ago.
As I have been explaining since the 9th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo a year ago, it is now appropriate to regard most of, if not all of the remaining 171 prisoners as political prisoners, given that the Obama administration, Congress and the judiciary have all made sure that Guantánamo may never close, and that few, if any of the remaining prisoners will ever be released, even though 89 of them were cleared for release (or, technically, “approved for transfer”) by the interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama established in January 2009.
The situation is no better for the other 82 prisoners, who are either scheduled to face trials that, in most cases, show no signs of materializing, or, in 46 cases, have been specifically designated as prisoners to be held indefinitely without charge or trial by President Obama, in an executive order last March. Although the President promised periodic reviews for these prisoners, his executive order essentially enshrines the indefensible – indefinite detention without charge or trial — as an official policy of his administration, even though he and senior officials have been at pains to point out that it applies only to these men, and is not to be construed as lending credibility to indefinite detention in general. Read the rest of this entry »
Freelance investigative journalist Andy Worthington continues his 70-part, million-word series telling, for the first time, the stories of 776 of the 779 prisoners held at Guantánamo since the prison opened on January 11, 2002. Adding information released by WikiLeaks in April 2011 to the existing documentation about the prisoners, much of which was already covered in Andy’s book The Guantánamo Files and in the archive of articles on his website, the project will be completed in time for the 10th anniversary of the prison’s opening on January 11, 2012.
This is Part 18 of the 70-part series. 234 stories have now been told. See the entire archive here.
In late April, WikiLeaks pushed Guantánamo back onto the international media’s agenda by publishing thousands of pages of classified military documents — the Detainee Assessment Briefs — relating to almost all of the 779 prisoners held at Guantánamo since the prison opened on January 11, 2002, which drew on the testimony of witnesses — in most cases, the prisoners’ fellow prisoners — whose words are unreliable, either because they were subjected to torture or other forms of coercion (sometimes not in Guantánamo, but in secret prisons run by the CIA), or because they provided false statements to secure better treatment in Guantánamo.
As an independent media partner of WikiLeaks, I liaised both before and after the publication of these documents with WikiLeaks’ mainstream media partners (including the Washington Post, McClatchy Newspapers, the Daily Telegraph, Der Spiegel, Le Monde and El Pais), and then, after the killing of Osama bin Laden pushed Guantánamo aside once more, and allowed apologists for torture, and those who engineered its use by US forces, to resume their malignant, criminal and deeply mistaken defense of torture, and of the existence of Guantánamo, I began to analyze all of the Detainee Assessment Briefs in depth.
I began, in May and June, with a five-part series, “WikiLeaks: The Unknown Prisoners of Guantánamo,” telling the stories of 84 prisoners, released between 2002 and 2004, whose stories had never been told before. These men and boys were amongst the first 201 prisoners released, and unlike the other prisoners, for whom information was released to the public from 2006 onwards, as a result of court cases involving Freedom of Information requests, no information had been officially released about the first 201 prisoners. Read the rest of this entry »
As the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks approaches, those hoping for the closure of the “War on Terror” prison at Guantánamo, which was, and remains the most notorious emblem of the Bush administration’s excessive and misguided response to the attacks, are wondering how the prison will ever close.
Through a combination of cowardice on the part of President Obama and ferocious opposition in Congress to his plans to close Guantánamo, 171 men remain at the prison, even though the President initially promised to close it within a year of taking office, and even though a Task Force he convened to review the prisoners’ cases, comprising career officials and lawyers in government departments and the intelligence agencies, recommended that only 36 of those men should be tried, and 89 others should be released.
With a Congress-imposed ban on bringing prisoners to the US mainland for any reason, and lawmakers insisting that they have the right to interfere in any plans to release prisoners, those campaigning to close Guantánamo have been obliged to seek out new angles in the effort to reawaken awareness about the ongoing injustice of Guantánamo.
To this end, a recent feature on CNN, dealing with the two remaining Kuwaiti prisoners in Guantánamo, highlighted some of the problems outlined above, as well as casting a baleful eye on the failure of the US judiciary to secure the release of prisoners. Importantly, however, it also provided a possible route out of the current paralysis regarding the closure of the prison, if the Obama administration can locate any political backbone. Read the rest of this entry »
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