Moazzam Begg is one of four British
men who are currently being held
at Camp X-Ray
, Guantanamo bay
by the government
of the United States of America
. The others being Feroz Abbasi
, Martin Mubanga
and Richard Belmar
, who are all from London
. Five other British men have already been released.
Mr Begg is originally from Sparkbrook, a suburb of Birmingham. His father, Azmat Begg, was born in India. Moazzam Begg, his wife Sally and three young children moved to Kabul, Afghanistan, in mid 2001 in order fulfil his dream of being a teacher, a charity worker at a school. With the war in Afghanistan in 2001, the family decided to wait out the hostilities in neighbouring Pakistan. He was seized in Islamabad in February 2002 by the CIA. No reasons have been given, but it has been suggested that that his name was financially linked to the 11 September 2001 hijackers. His family insist that this is a case of mistaken identity.
He was held at Bagram airbase for around a year, then transfered to Guantanamo bay.
Now, in October 2004, he is 36 years old, and has been held for two and a half years, much of that time in solitary confinement. He has not been charged with any crime or seen his lawyers during this time.
His British lawyer has recently received a handwritten letter from him, written on 12 July 2004. This letter is unusual in that it is the first letter to come from a Guantanamo bay prisoner without having been censored by the US state. It is not clear how this letter escaped the censor. It is not known if he has written similar letters before. His present mental state is not known.
The full text of the letter was passed to Mr. Begg's American lawyer, thence to his British lawyer, and has now been given a requested by Mr Begg to the British home secretary, Jack Straw, among others.
Several phrases from this letter have been discussed in the media, the most quotable being the " threats of torture, actual torture, death threats, racial and religious abuse", the "cruel and unusual treatment" and "documents ... were signed under duress".
The phrase that is most puzzling in this letter is "the deaths of two fellow detainees, at the hands of US military personnel, to which I myself was partially witness."
We don't exactly know what "partially witness" means, but the most likely explanation is that while at Bagram airbase, he was shown part of the torture to death of two other detainees. This has been suggested by Mr. Begg's UK lawyers as a possible explanation (and as the only currently known possible explanation) as to why Mr. Begg has been held in solitary confinement throughout his imprisonment at Guantanamo Bay - so that he does not communicate this to the other detainees there.
Particularly poignant is his statement "I am a law abiding citizen of the UK, and attest vehemently to my innocence, before God and the law, of any crime - though none has even been alleged."
Here is the text of the letter, in full:
2th July, 2004
US FORCES ADMINISTRATION JTF/ JDOG, GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN
RE: Supplementary Exposition (of Statement dated 5th July, 2004)
I, Moazzam Begg, citizen of The United Kingdom of Great Britain, attributed the number 00558 (camp Echo), have felt it necessary to augment, and further clarify the above noted statement, and to accentuate my grievances and intentions.
After over two-and-a-half years in the custody of the US military without charge, and by extension, without jurisdiction, I have yet to be afforded basic rights normally granted under the constitution of the USA, and international law.
I therefore demand, unconditionally and irrevocably, that I be released immediately and returned to my family and domicile in the UK, together will all possessions: including all items and monies confiscated by US/Pakistani "agents" from my residence in Pakistan on 31 January 2002.
In the likely event that these demands are outrightly rejected or unnecessarily procrastinated, I demand the following rights under US law:-
1. A thorough and peremptory explanation of all statutory rights available within U.S. legislature, particularly with respect to foreign nationals.
2. Any and all charges/ allegations be presented unambiguously, and written.
3. Full access to international phone calls in order to communicate with family and lawyers.
4. Full access to legal representatives of my own choice and appointment.
5. A fully inventoried list detailing all property seized (as mentioned above).
6. Regular and timely access to postal communication with family and a halt to the obscuring and withholding of mail from home.
In addition to the aforementioned rights, I make it known that I expect logical and reasonable answers for the following violations and abuses, and intend to seek justice and accountability:-
i) The exact purpose for my abduction, kidnapping and false imprisonment on 31st January 2002, under the auspices of U.S. intelligence and law enforcement.
ii) Subsequently, what legal jurisdiction they had for taking me forcibly to Afghanistan.
iii) By what legal authority was property and money confiscated, leaving my wife and young children destitute and penniless, in their wake.
iv) Why I was brought into a designated war zone, and my life put at risk.
v) Why I was physically abused, and degradingly stripped by force, then paraded in front of several cameras toted by U.S. personnel.
vi) The reason for being held in Bagram detention facility for a year, and consequently, being denied natural light and fresh food for the duration.
vii) The exact purpose for my incarceration in solitary confinement since 8th Feb, 2003!
viii) Why all news pertaining to my own situation has been barred from me.
ix) The justification for withholding most of my family mail, and incongruent obscurance of what little amounts have trickled through - even from 8 year olds!
x) Why phone calls and legal representation have been continually denied, despite several reassurances to the contrary.
xi) Why, despite copious requests, I have yet to meet with a chaplain during all this time.
xii) What was the legality and purpose of extracting my signature on a statement, in early February 2003, by FBI and CITF agents, under threats of long term imprisonment, summary trials and execution - all without legal representation.
I state here, unequivocally and for the record, that any documents presented to me by US law enforcement agents were signed and initialled under duress, thus rendered legally contested in validity.
During several interviews, particularly - though unexclusively - in Afghanistan, I was subjected to pernicious threats of torture, actual vindictive torture and death threats - amongst other coercively employed interrogation techniques. Neither was the presence of legal counsel ever produced, or made available.
The said interviews were conducted in an environment of generated fear, resonant with terrifying screams of fellow detainees facing similar methods. In this atmosphere of severe antipathy towards detainees was the compounded use of racially and religiously prejudiced taunts. This culminated, in my opinion, with the deaths of two fellow detainees, at the hands of US military personnel, to which I myself was partially witness.
In spite of all the aforementioned cruel and unusual treatment meted out, I have maintained a compliant and amicable manner with my captors, and a cooperative attitude. My behavioural record is impeccable, yet contrasts immensely to what I have experienced, as stated.
I am a law abiding citizen of the UK, and attest vehemently to my innocence, before God and the law, of any crime - though none has even been alleged. I have neither ever met Usama bin Laden, nor have been a member of Al Qaidah - or any synonymous paramilitary organisation, party or group. Neither have I engaged in hostile acts against the USA, nor assisted such groups in the same - though the opportunity has availed itself many a time, and motive.
Regardless of the outcome of all my appeals to sanity, and protestations over the years, I reiterate my intention to seek justice at every possible level available to me. It is with that intent that I have prepared duplicates of this statement: for the information and use of the authorities and courts of justice.
I have requested this document be perused by the camp NCO; the generality of its contents be recorded in the Camp log; and forwarded to the appropriate intended recipient.
MOAZZAM BEGG (00558)
Dated this twelfth day of July, 2004
has in response commented that torture is prohibited at Guantanamo bay, that all credible allegations of abuse are investigated, and that the "the United States operates a safe, humane
and professional detention operation at Guantanamo that is providing valuable information on the War on Terror
The five British men already released from Guantanamo bay have provided harrowing accounts of repeated beatings, humilation and death threats.