CAGE (organisation)

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Formation October 2003 (2003-10)
Type Advocacy organization with an Islamic focus
Purpose Stated aim is "empower communities impacted by the War on Terror" and "highlight and campaign against state policies" pertaining to the War on Terror
Headquarters London, England
Moazzam Begg
Formerly called

CAGE, formerly Cageprisoners Ltd, is a London-based advocacy organization with an Islamic focus,[1] whose stated aim is "empower communities impacted by the War on Terror" and "highlight and campaign against state policies" pertaining to the War on Terror".[2] The organization has worked closely with number of former detainees held by the United States and campaigns on behalf of Muslim prisoners, including convicted terrorists.[3]

Its director, Moazzam Begg, is a former Guantánamo Bay detainee who was released without charge in 2005 by President Bush over the objections of the Pentagon, the CIA, and the FBI (all of whom were concerned that Begg could still be a dangerous terrorist).[4] In November 2010, The Guardian reported that US embassy cables showed a US U-turn, praising Begg over his campaign for Europe to take in other Guantanamo detainees.[5]

Stated purpose[edit]

The cell in which a Guantánamo Bay prisoner was detained. Inset is the prisoners' reading room

CAGE is an advocacy organization whose stated aim is "to highlight and campaign against state policies developed as part of the War on Terror".[2] It has run campaigns in support of freeing detainees who continue to be held without charges, such as Aafia Siddiqui, Babar Ahmad, Syed Talha Ahsan and Shaker Aamer.[6]

The journalist Terry Glavin in The National Post described the organization as "a front for Taliban enthusiasts and al Qaida devotees that fraudulently presents itself a human rights group."[7]

Among the Muslim inmates it has highlighted are Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged 9/11 mastermind; Abu Hamza, facing extradition from the U.K. to the U.S. on terror charges; and Abu Qatada, described as Osama Bin Laden’s “European ambassador”.[8]


In October 2003, its website was launched by Muslim volunteers during the month of Ramadan.[9] It is registered to a group of computer programmers based in Britain. It publicized names and information about detainees that the United States had kept secret, in an effort to show they were people with lives.[10]

Its director, Moazzam Begg, is a British citizen from Birmingham. He was held for a total of three years by the United States in extrajudicial detention as a suspected enemy combatant in Bagram and the Guantanamo Bay detainment camp in Cuba by the U.S. government.[3][11] He was released without charge in 2005 by President Bush over the objections of the Pentagon, the CIA, and the FBI, who alleged that Begg could be a dangerous terrorist.[4] He has worked to represent detainees still held at Guantanamo, as well as to help former detainees become re-integrated into society. He has also been working with governments to persuade them to accept non-national former detainees, some of whom have needed refuges other than their countries of origin.

By November 2010, The Guardian reported that US embassy cables in the Wikileaks showed then-U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg, Cynthia Stroum, praising Begg for his campaign to persuade European nations to take in Guantanamo detainees for resettlement.[5]

Referring to 2010 Afghanistan, Begg said he completely supported the inalienable right of the people to fight "foreign occupation".[12]


Qur'an Desecration Report[edit]

In May 2005, CAGE released The Qur'an Desecration Report, which contained accounts from former Guantánamo prisoners who said they suffered religious abuse.[13]

Anwar al-Awlaki[edit]

The organization developed close ties to Anwar al-Awlaki after his release from Yemeni detention in 2007; he was alleged by the US to be a senior al-Qaeda member implicated in later terrorist actions.[3] Begg was the first to interview al-Awlaki after his release in Yemen.[14] CAGE invited the cleric to address their Ramadan fundraising dinners in August 2008 (at Wandsworth Civic Centre, South London by videolink, as he was banned from entering the U.K.) and August 2009 (at Kensington Town Hall. The local authority refused permission to broadcast his speech on its property).[3][15] The CAGE website had considerable material about and by al-Awlaki.[3]

CAGE has been criticized by Gita Saghal and other writers for championing al-Awlaki, which "should have rung alarm bells", because he has been linked to al-Qaeda and various terrorists.[3][16] In November 2010 CAGE issued a press release to clarify their position on al-Awlaki.[17] They noted that, before his 18-month detention, al-Awlaki had been known as a cleric of moderate views. In that period, he had been invited to speak at the Pentagon and he served as a chaplain at an American university. They defended their support of him as a prisoner held by Yemen without charge for 18 months. But, they clarified that they strongly opposed his newly espoused radical positions, and announced this when they learned that he advocated attacking civilians. At the same time, they opposed the United States' plan to target him for assassination in a missile strike.[18] Awlaki was later killed by the US in a drone strike in 2011.[19]

The World Tomorrow controversy[edit]

In an Episode 5 of Julian Assange's World Tomorrow broadcast by RT on 15 May 2012, representatives of CAGE (Moazzam Begg and Asim Qureshi) expressed support for the principle creating an Islamic caliphate including precise implementation of Sharia law. Begg suggested that full implementation of Sharia has not occurred since before the fall of the Ottoman Caliphate. During the interview Asim Qureshi expressed personal support for the principle of death by stoning for adultery and other death penalties prescribed by Islamic law "as long as all due process elements are met",[20] and in 2015 again refused to condemn stoning for adultery.[21][22][23]

Amnesty International controversy[edit]

In February 2010, Amnesty International suspended Gita Sahgal, its gender unit head, after she criticised Amnesty for its links with Begg. She said it was "a gross error of judgment" to work with "Britain's most famous supporter of the Taliban".[24][25][26][27] Salman Rushdie supported her, saying: "Amnesty ... has done its reputation incalculable damage by allying itself with Moazzam Begg and his group Cageprisoners, and holding them up as human rights advocates.[28] The journalist Nick Cohen wrote in The Observer: "Amnesty ... thinks that liberals are free to form alliances with defenders of clerical fascists who want to do everything in their power to suppress liberals, most notably liberal-minded Muslims."[29]

After Osama bin Laden was killed in an American raid in May 2011, CAGE published an editorial written as news satire. Dated 15 May 2021, it announced "American War Criminal Barack Obama has been killed by Pakistani security forces in the UK."[30] Michael Weiss, who is a research director for The Henry Jackson Society criticized the satire, calling it "a sick joke".[31]

Mohamed Emwazi or 'Jihadi John'[edit]

Mohamed Emwazi, the 27-year-old Briton identified as the masked beheader of civilian captives of ISIS in Syria, was well known to CAGE from 2010, and corresponded with them on several occasions. CAGE's research director, Asim Qureshi, called Emwazi "a beautiful young man"[32] and "extremely kind, gentle and soft-spoken, the most humble young person I knew." He explained how, in his view, Emwazi's contact with the UK security services had transformed him into a brutal killer, "Individuals are prevented from travelling, placed under house arrest and in the worst cases tortured, rendered or killed, seemingly on the whim of security agents."[33] Following Emwazi's reported death in a drone strike in the Syrian Civil War, CAGE expressed dissatisfaction that he had not been brought to trial.[34]

Moussa Zemmouri[edit]

Mosa Zi Zemmori is a former Guantanamo Bay detainee that CAGE has maintained associations with both during and after his detention.[35] Zemmori was arrested in Pakistan after attending an Al-Qaeda training camp in the village of Khowst, Afghanistan, and transferred to Guantanamo Bay on February 15, 2002, where he was eventually released from in 2005.[36] He was suspected of being a member of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group. Since his release, Zemmori has been invited to numerous events hosted by CAGE, often being featured as guest lecturer and reciter of Surah.[37] After being placed under surveillance by the Belgian government, Zemmouri was arrested on July 24, 2015, alongside 3 others in Hoboken, Antwerp, Belgium, for attempted burglary, allegedly trying to use the stolen funds for the Al-Qaeda linked Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group.[38] CAGE has yet to release any statements about their affiliation with Mosa Zi Zemmori.

Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the suggestion that this radicalisation was the fault of British authorities as "reprehensible", whilst Mayor of London Boris Johnson called it an "apology for terror".[39] John Spellar, speaking for Labour, said that CAGE were "very clearly coming out as apologists for terrorism."[40] The counter-extremist Quilliam Foundation called CAGE "part of the problem and not part of the solution."[41] The Quilliam Foundation have also expressed concern regarding the sympathies of Asim Qureshi, after video emerged of his calling for jihad at a Hizb ut-Tahrir rally.[42]

Partly as a result of this statement, the Charity Commission asked charities that had funded CAGE to cease doing so; they complied.[43] Amnesty International, which had previously campaigned with the organisation on issues relating to Guantanamo and torture, said, “We are reviewing whether any future association with the group would now be appropriate.”[44]


CAGE have said, without making the figures available, that the majority of their income comes from private individuals.[40] Between 2007 and 2014, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust has given grants to CAGE totaling £305,000, of which 271,250 was paid. The Roddick Foundation, an organization founded by Anita Roddick, has paid grants totaling £120,000 between 2009 and 2014. Both entities have agreed to cease funding CAGE at the request of the Charity Commission, which has expressed concern that funding CAGE was damaging public confidence in charity.[43] The Network for Social Change gave a non-charitable grant of £15,000 in 2008.[40]

Lord Carlile, formerly the British Government’s independent reviewer of anti-terrorism legislation, said: "I would never advise anybody to give money to CagePrisoners. I have concerns about the group. There are civil liberty organisations which I do give money to but CagePrisoners is most certainly not one of them."[1]

In October 2015, following an application for judicial review by CAGE, the Charity Commission changed its position and said it would not interfere in the discretion of charities to choose to fund CAGE.[45]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Mainstream charities have donated thousands to Islamic group fronted by terror suspect". The Telegraph. 1 March 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "About Us". CAGE. Retrieved 28 March 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f O'Neill, Sean (4 January 2010). "Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had links with London campaign group". The Times. Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. Retrieved 17 February 2010. 
  4. ^ a b Tim Golden (15 June 2006). "Jihadist or Victim: Ex-Detainee Makes a Case". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 16 December 2010. 
  5. ^ a b MacAskill, Ewen (30 November 2010). "WikiLeaks cables show US U-turn over ex-Guantánamo inmate". The Guardian (London). 
  6. ^ "About Us". CAGE. Retrieved 13 August 2012. 
  7. ^ Terry Glavin, "Amnesty International doubles down on appeasement", The National Post, 8 February 2010, accessed 17 February 2010.[dead link]
  8. ^ Richard Kerbaj (7 February 2010). "Amnesty International is ‘damaged’ by Taliban link". The Times. Archived from the original on 14 August 2012. 
  9. ^ "About Us". CAGE. Retrieved 12 August 2012. 
  10. ^ "Names of the Detained in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba". The Washington Post. 15 March 2006. Archived from the original on 16 December 2010. Retrieved 3 January 2010. Many names came from two Web sites that monitor the status of Guantanamo detainees: the Arabic-language Alasra ( and the Britain-based CagePrisoners ( The two sites, which advocate the release of the detainees, have published lists of names, photographs and documents provided by families. Alasra is registered to an unknown individual in Saudi Arabia, and CagePrisoners is registered to a group of Muslim computer programmers based in Britain. 
  11. ^ David Ignatius, A Prison We Need to Escape, Washington Post, 14 June 2006.
  12. ^ Mary Fitzgerald (13 November 2010). "Obama is president of extra-judicial killing, says ex-Guantánamo inmate". The Irish Times. Retrieved 18 November 2010. 
  13. ^ Adam, Bint, "Desecrating the Qur'an: The Straw That Broke The Camel's Back", Islam Online, 26 March 2003, accessed 3 January 2010
  14. ^ Exclusive: Moazzam Begg Interviews Anwar al-Awlaki (audio interview on YouTube), Cageprisoners, December 2007, accessed 6 January 2010.
  15. ^ Sawer, Patrick, and Barrett, David, "Detroit bomber's mentor continues to influence British mosques and universities", The Telegraph, 2 January 2010, accessed 3 January 2010.
  16. ^ Gita Saghal (15 November 2010). "Human rights folly on Anwar al-Awlaki". Comment is free. The Guardian. 
  17. ^ "PRESS RELEASE: Cageprisoners and Anwar al-Awlaki – a factual background". CAGE. 5 November 2010. Archived from the original on 16 December 2010. 
  18. ^ "Top charities give £200,000 to group which supported al-Qaeda cleric". The Telegraph. 6 November 2010. 
  19. ^ "Two U.S.-Born Terrorists Killed in CIA-Led Drone Strike". Fox News. 30 September 2011. 
  20. ^ "Episode 5". 
  21. ^ Rosa Prince (6 Mar 2015). "Cage director Asim Qureshi refuses to condemn stoning of adulterous women". The Telegraph. 
  22. ^ Tom Porter (6 March 2015). "Cage director Asim Qureshi refuses to condemn stoning women or female genital mutilation". International Business Times. 
  23. ^ "‘Sharia isn’t practiced correctly’: CAGE director refuses to condemn death by stoning". RT. 6 March 2015. 
  24. ^ "How Amnesty chose the wrong poster-boy; Collaboration with Moazzam Begg, an extremist who has supported jihadi movements, looks like a serious mistake". The Times. 9 February 2010. 
  25. ^ "Amnesty chief suspended after attacking group's links to 'Britain's most famous Taliban supporter'". Mail Online. 9 February 2010. 
  26. ^ Bright, Martin, "Gita Sahgal: A Statement", Spectator, 7 February 2010, accessed 10 February 2010.
  27. ^ Joan Smith. "Amnesty shouldn't support men like Moazzam Begg". The Independent. 
  28. ^ Salman Rushdie's statement on Amnesty International, The Sunday Times, 21 February 2010.
  29. ^ Nick Cohen (14 February 2010). "We abhor torture – but that requires paying a price". the Guardian. 
  30. ^ Ansari, Fahad, BREAKING NEWS: BARACK OBAMA IS DEAD, Cageprisoners, 9 May 2011
  31. ^ Weiss, Michael, "Barack Obama is dead': A sick joke from Moazzam Begg's Cageprisoners group", The Daily Telegraph, 10 May 2011.
  32. ^ "IS 'Jihadi John' suspect 'a beautiful young man' - Cage". BBC. 26 Feb 2015. 
  33. ^ "'Jihadi John' Used To Be 'Kind And Gentle'". Sky News. 27 February 2015. 
  34. ^ "Jihadi John 'dead': Jeremy Corbyn says 'far better' if militant had been tried in court rather than killed". The Independent. 14 November 2015. 
  35. ^ "Prisoners : Guantanamo: Moussa Zemmouri (Released)". Cage Prisoners. 
  36. ^ "'The Guantanamo Files - Mosa Zi Zemmori'" (PDF). WikiLeaks. 24 April 2011. 
  37. ^ "'Moussa Zemmouri Reciting Surah al Ankabut'". Youtube. 26 July 2011. 
  38. ^ "'Official: Two former Guantanamo detainees arrested in Belgium'". CNN Leaks. 24 July 2015. 
  39. ^ "Jihadi John: Activist who praised Mohammed Emwazi as "beautiful" caught on video backing jihad". The Telegraph. 27 February 2015. 
  40. ^ a b c "Charities that funded Cage, one time supporter of IS's Emwazi, under pressure". Reuters. 4 March 2015. 
  41. ^ "What is Cage? Jihadi John confidant that describes executioner Mohammed Emwazi as 'beautiful'". International Business Times. 26 February 2015. 
  42. ^ "Jihadi John: UK Campaigner With Links to Emwazi Called for Jihad". Newsweek. 26 February 2015. 
  43. ^ a b "Charities sever ties with pressure group Cage over Mohammed Emwazi links". The Guardian. 6 March 2015. 
  44. ^ "Amnesty International considers cutting links with pressure group Cage". The Guardian. 2 March 2015. 
  45. ^ Ramesh, Randeep (21 October 2015). "Charities can fund controversial pressure group Cage, court finds". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 October 2015. 

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