By: Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain
“Information Clearing House – “The Intercept” – Moazzam Begg, a native-born British citizen of Pakistani descent, spent three years incarcerated in the most notorious detention camps created in the post-9/11 “War on Terror”: all without ever being charged with any crime.
Arrested in Pakistan in 2002, he was transferred to Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, where he suffered torture and witnessed U.S. interrogators beat an innocent taxi driver to death, and then onwards to Guantanamo Bay where he would be detained for the next three years in conditions he’d describe as “torturous”.
Throughout this time Begg, now 45, was repeatedly deprived of legal counsel and was prohibited from even viewing the alleged evidence against him. After public outcry in his home country resulted in his repatriation to England in 2005, Begg went on to become a human rights activist — writing books, and advocating for other post-9/11 detainees through his organization Cageprisoners, whose self-described mission is: “working to empower communities impacted by the War on Terror”; “campaigning against the War on Terror”; and “working with survivors of abuse and mistreatment across the globe.”
Much of this work has included investigating the claims of others who were tortured with the complicity of the British government. It is in retaliation for this activism, he says, that he has been repeatedly harassed, including repeated interrogations and the confiscation of his passport last December at Heathrow Airport, when agents told him it was “not in the public interest” for him to retain it. In an article he published about that incident, Begg two weeks ago wrote: “I am certain that the only reason I am being continually harassed….[is because of] investigations and assertions based on hard evidence that British governments, past and present, have been willfully complicit in torture.”
On Tuesday, Begg was arrested in an “anti-terror raid” on his home outside Birmingham, charged with “terrorism” offenses for having allegedly traveled to Syria to assist Syrian rebels. He was among four other people arrested that day, all due to Syria-related offences.
Moazzam Begg, the former Guantanamo Bay detainee and director of advocacy group CAGE, was one of four people arrested this morning on suspicion of Syria-related terrorism offences, police have confirmed.
In an event held earlier in January “Is Islam Being Criminalised?” Moazzam Begg spoke to an audience of 600 people regarding the British government’s anti-terror strategy and the harrasment he’s been facing for investigating the intelligence service’s relationship with tyrannical regimes in the Arab world.
During this speech he said: “Britain has truly taken a new turn in its persecution of religious minorities, especially Muslims. Sheikh Tony Blair telling us what our religion is! I told the British secret services that I’m going to Syria to investigate them. This war against Islam and Muslims transcends boarders and continents, unlike any other war against any other group. They wish to extinguish the light of Islam.”
His last Facebook post was: “Sometimes knowing too much can be a curse.”
Cerie Bullivant, Media Officer of CAGE said: “Moazzam has been very open about his international travel and his objectives, including importantly exposing British complicity in rendition and torture. The timing of Moazzam‘s arrest given his travel to Syria took place in December 2012 requires a detailed explanation.
“The timing coincides with the planned release of a CAGE report on Syria and a major news piece that was due to be televised soon. As with David Miranda it seems those who are engaged in exposing abuse of powers are targeted and smeared to prevent disclosure of vital evidence.
“We are also concerned that the Police and the security services are using the wide scope of terrorism laws, and applying them in Syria to set precedents that will make legitimate activity unlawful in future.”
Asim Qureshi, Research Director of CAGE said: “CAGE calls on all defenders of civil liberties and the rule of law to stand up and protest against the serious curtailment of yet another victim. The message may be unpalatable to those who wish to shroud their abuse in secrecy but that can never justify an attack on the messengers.
“We are disgusted that Moazzam Begg is being retraumatised with the same guilt by association accusations that resulted in his unlawful incarceration in Guantanamo Bay. We fully support our colleague and see his arrest as politically motivated and as part of a campaign to criminalise legitimate activism.”