Moazzam Begg

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Moazzam Begg
Moazzam Begg.jpg
Moazzam Begg
Born 1968 (age 47–48)
Sparkhill, Birmingham, Warwickshire, England, UK
Arrested February 2002
Islamabad, Pakistan
Pakistani police (Inter-Services Intelligence)
Released 26 January 2005
Paddington Green Police Station, London, England, UK
Citizenship United Kingdom, Pakistan
Detained at Kandahar; Bagram; Guantanamo Bay detention camp
Charge(s) None
Status Released
Occupation Director of Cageprisoners
Spouse Zaynab Begg
Parents Azmat Begg (father)
Children 4

Moazzam Begg (Urdu: مُعَظّم بیگ‎; born 1968 in Sparkhill, Birmingham) is a British Pakistani 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][2] 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 has claimed Begg was an enemy combatant and al-Qaeda member, who recruited, provided money for their training camps, and trained at their camps to fight US or allied troops.[3][4] Begg acknowledged having spent time at two camps and given some financial support to fighters, but denies that he was directly involved in terrorism.[2][5][6][7][8]

Begg says that he was abused by guards at Bagram, and saw two detainees beaten to death. After a military investigation in response to other reports of abuse, in 2005 United States officials charged seven American guards at Bagram with homicide and criminal assault.[9]

The UK government intervened with the United States on behalf of its citizens detained at Guantanamo; most were released in 2004. President George W. Bush had Begg released without charge on 25 January 2005. The Pentagon, CIA, and FBI objected.[10] Begg and other British citizens who had been detained at Guantanamo sued the British government for complicity in their alleged abuse and torture while held in US custody. In November 2010, the British Government announced an out-of-court financial settlement with several men, including Begg.[11]

After his release, Begg became a media commentator on issues pertaining to the UK Muslim community, and UK and international anti-terror measures. He toured as a speaker about Guantanamo and other detention facilities. Begg co-authored a book, and has written newspaper and magazine articles.[10] He was interviewed in Taxi to the Dark Side, (2008), a documentary about the torture of prisoners held by Americans. [12]

In 2014 the British government arrested Begg on charges of alleged terrorist activities during the Syrian civil war. Charges were dropped and he was released before trial when it was shown that MI5 knew of his travel to Iraq.

Early life and education[edit]


Moazzam Begg was born in England to a middle-class family. His Muslim parents had emigrated to the UK from Pakistan. Begg holds dual UK–Pakistani citizenship.[7] He was born in Sparkhill, a suburb of Birmingham, and his mother died when he was six. His father, Azmat Begg, a former bank manager, was born in British India and lived in Pakistan before emigrating to Great Britain.[2][10][13] Begg grew up in Moseley.[14]

His father sent him to the Jewish King David School, Birmingham, from age 5 to 11, because he thought it promoted good values.[2][14][15] Begg later attended Moseley Secondary School. During secondary school, he became a member of the Lynx Gang, a Birmingham street gang.[2][10] The group was mostly Pakistani, but also included Algerian, Asian, Afro-Caribbean and Irish youths.[16]

They banded together to fight persecution by far right anti-immigrant groups.[2][10][16][17] He said "we did things that no good Muslim should," but stated he rarely did anything violent.[10][16] He appeared in court for taking part in a fight with skinheads.[18] Begg attended Solihull College, and University of Wolverhampton.[19]

UK, Afghanistan, Bosnia, 1993–98[edit]

On a family holiday to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan in his late teens, Begg became interested in Islam.[10] In late 1993 he returned to Pakistan and crossed the Pakistani–Afghan border with the leader of the Lynx Gang, Syed Murad Meah Butt (known as Niaaz), and some fellow young Pakistanis near the city of Khost. Begg said he met with nationalist and Islamic rebels (mujahedeen)[7][10] and spent two weeks in a training camp run by either the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance or a Pakistani group (run by Jamat-e-Islam) fighting for Kashmir. People were being trained to use Kalashnikovs and handguns, and in mountain tactics and guerrilla methods.[2][7][8] Begg later wrote of his time at the training camp: "I had met men who seemed to me exemplary in their faith and self-sacrifice, and seen a world that awed and inspired me."[5] Begg says he did not participate in the training.[7]

Inspired by the commitment of the mujahedeen, Begg said he travelled to Bosnia in the early 1990s to help the Muslims during its civil war. He said he was "terribly affected by some of the stories ... of the atrocities taking place there," and supported militant Muslims.[4][7][10] In 1994 he joined a charity that worked with Muslims in Bosnia.[14] He states he "very briefly" joined the Bosnian Army Foreign Volunteer Force.[16] He said: "In Bosnia, I did fight for a while. But I saw people horribly damaged, and I thought, This is not for me."[20] Begg first met Khalil Deek in Bosnia.[13]

Begg also tried to travel to Chechnya during its struggle with Russia. While he thought that "fighting wasn't out of the question," he states he did not participate in the armed struggle.[7][13] He gave financial support to the Muslim fighters.[7][21][22]

Begg was arrested in 1994 charged with conspiracy to defraud the Department of Social Security.[22] His friend and fellow "Lynx Gang" member Syed Murad Meah Butt was also charged, pleaded guilty, and served 18 months in jail.[22][23][24] The fraud charges against Begg were subsequently dropped.[22]

A search of his home by anti-terrorist police[14] reportedly found night vision goggles, a bulletproof vest, and "extremist Islamic literature".[22] Other items included a flak jacket for protection against shrapnel from mines in Bosnia (one of the most heavily mined countries in the world), and a hand-held night vision lens, to help navigate Bosnian streets that lacked electricity. He denied owning any "extremist Islamic literature"[25] and noted the items seized were no different from what many aid workers operating in conflict zones might carry. His father said Begg had been collecting military paraphernalia as a hobby since childhood.[22][25]

In 1999, Butt began a five-year prison sentence in Yemen for planning a terrorist bombing.[10][22][23][26][27]

In 2005, after Begg's detention at Guantanamo became public knowledge, the US Justice Department alleged he had “received extensive training in al-Qaeda terrorist camps since 1993.”[6] Pentagon officials said that Begg trained at three terrorist camps associated with al-Qaeda.[10] While at the training camps, he reportedly trained to use handguns, AK-47 rifles, and RPGs and to plan ambushes.[6][8] The statement identified Begg as “a member of al-Qaeda and affiliated organisations,” who was “engaged in hostilities against the United States and its coalition partners” in Afghanistan and said he “provided support to al-Qaeda terrorists, by providing shelter for their families while the al-Qaeda terrorists committed terrorist acts”.[6]

Marriage and move to Pakistan[edit]

In 1995 Begg married. He and his family moved to Peshawar, Pakistan in early 1998.[10] Khalil Deek also lived in Peshawar at that time. The US 9/11 Commission later described him as an associate of Abu Zubaydah, believed then to be a senior al-Qaeda lieutenant, who they said was in Peshawar to recruit men to train at Afghan camps.[10] The CIA and MI5 suspected Begg worked with Deek to create a CD-ROM terrorist manual.[10] Begg said in an interview that he met Deek in Bosnia and went in together with him on a business deal, but said he never met Zubaydah. Pentagon officials said that conflicts with what he told interrogators.[10]

Begg notes that he visited a second Afghan training camp, near Jalalabad, for two or three days during that time.[7][8] He states it was run by Iraqi Kurds, not by al-Qaeda. They were training to use improvised incendiary grenades to fight Saddam Hussein. He donated a few hundred British pounds to that camp and a third training camp.[2][7][8] A Pentagon spokesman said Begg spent five days in early 1998 at Derunta, an al-Qaeda-affiliated Afghan training camp. Defense Department officials said that Begg's sworn statements state he trained at Derunta and two other Afghan camps.[10] He denied saying that, but acknowledged signing some documents while in custody because he feared for his life.[10]

Guantanamo files leaked in 2011 reveal that the Department of Defence had secretly concluded that Begg was a "confirmed member of al-Qaida," and that he had been an instructor at the Derunta training camp, as well as having attended the al-Badr and Harakat aI-Ansar training camps.[28]

UK, 1998–2001: arrest and raids[edit]

Begg returned to Birmingham in 1998, opening an Islamic book and video store.[10] The Maktabah Al Ansar bookshop in Sparkhill, Birmingham, became a gathering place. Some of the patrons were on British and US government watch lists. MI5 first raided it the following year.[29][30] A former employee of the bookshop and co-worker of Begg, identified only as 'D,' was an Algerian illegal immigrant who was placed under a control order on 18 December 2001. D had previously been convicted in France for membership in the terrorist organisation Groupe Islamique Armé, and was alleged to have been in contact with numerous individuals convicted of terrorist offences, including Djamel Beghal, Brahim Benmerzouga, Baghdad Meziane and Abu Qatada.[31]

In 1999, Begg through his bookstore commissioned and published a book by Dhiren Barot about his experiences in Kashmir, entitled The Army of Madinah in Kashmir.[32] Barot had undergone training in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and joined the insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir against India. He was later referred to as bin Laden's "UK General." He was convicted in Britain of being an al-Qaeda terrorist and sentenced to 40 years in jail.[32][33][34] Barot wrote the book under the alias Esa Al Hindi.[35] The book was used as evidence against Barot at his trial for planning a "dirty bomb" attack on London, in which he was convicted.[32]

In February 2000, dozens of Special Branch and MI5 officers investigating Islamic terrorism raided the bookshop, took away books, files and computers, questioned staff and arrested Begg under British anti-terrorism laws.[22][32] They found the bookstore offered titles such as The Virtues of Jihad and Declaration of War.[22][36][37] Begg was released without charge.[22][36] Begg's father said the British government retrieved encrypted files from his son's computer, and ordered Begg to open them, but Begg refused. A judge ruled in Begg's favour.[22]

Ruhal Ahmed was later one of the so-called 'Tipton Three,' young men from the same town in Britain who were held as Guantanamo detainees. While incarcerated, he is alleged to have told investigators that he had first become interested in jihad in summer 2000 after purchasing numerous books on jihad from the Maktabah Al Ansar bookshop.[38]

Begg's home in the U.K. was raided by anti-terrorist police in the summer of 2001. They took his computer and some related materials, but did not press charges.[14]

Afghanistan, Pakistan, July 2001 – February 2002: arrest[edit]

With his wife Zaynab and three young children, Begg moved to Kabul, Afghanistan, in late July 2001.[8][10][22] At the time, the Taliban ruled Afghanistan.[39][40] Begg considered it as a low-cost place to bring up a family, and one where his wife and children would not be harassed for their race.[10][30] He wrote in his autobiography that by 2001 the Taliban had made "some modest progress — in social justice and upholding pure, old Islamic values forgotten in many Islamic countries."[40] Begg has since criticised the Taliban for its human rights abuses.[40]

He says that he moved to Kabul because he was moved by the plight of the Afghan people living under the Taliban regime and to fulfil his dream of being a teacher. Begg says while still in the UK, he had begun sponsoring a school for basic education, providing books, teaching materials and classroom and playground equipment. He says he was in the process of starting the school, and was going to be a charity worker at it. He intended it to teach both boys and girls, although the Taliban regime opposed education for females and had not given him a licence.[8][13][30] Begg states he also intended to build wells.[13][30]

In his book Enemy Combatant, Begg recalls telling two US agents who visited him in his Guantanamo Bay cell that:

I wanted to live in an Islamic state–one that was free from the corruption and despotism of the rest of the Muslim world.... I knew you wouldn't understand. The Taliban were better than anything Afghanistan has had in the past 25 years.[41]

The Allied attack on Afghanistan began in October 2001, and following the Taliban's defeat, a US Justice Department dossier on Begg indicates that he joined their retreat to the Tora Bora mountains. The Pentagon asserts that he was “prepared to fight in the front line against allied forces.”[6][10] While in Afghanistan, he bought a rifle and handgun.[4][8] He said that he and his family evacuated to Islamabad in Pakistan for safety. He became separated from his family for three weeks. He and several other men were guided over the mountains in western Pakistan, and he reunited with his family by mid-November.[8][10][14][30]

Surveillance photo of the Derunta training camp after US bombardment.

Al-Qaeda's Derunta training camp, 15 miles (24 km) from Jalalabad, was captured in November 2001. In the camp were found al-Qaeda training books, sketches of bombs, bomb-building manuals, lists of potential targets, and a photocopy of a wire transfer moving funds from the Habib Bank AG Zurich to Moazzam Begg in Karachi. US and Pakistani officials did not yet know who Begg was.[42] Begg maintains that he is unaware of such a transaction, and that no one has shown him the document.[43][44]

In February 2002, Begg was arrested at his rented home in Islamabad, by Pakistani police officers on suspicion of links with the Taliban or al-Qaeda. His family maintains it was a case of mistaken identity.[2][22][45] After several weeks, the Pakistanis transferred him over to United States Army officers.[2][46] He was taken back to Kabul by car.[14]

Detention in Afghanistan[edit]

Sketch of Dilawar chained to ceiling of his cell, by former Reserve US Army Military Police Corps sergeant

Begg was held at Bagram Theater Internment Facility for approximately a year, from February 2002 to February 2003. He states he was tortured at Bagram, hog-tied, kicked, punched, left in a room with a bag put over his head (even though he suffered from asthma), sworn at, and threatened with extraordinary rendition to Egypt.[4][7]

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said at the time, there was "no credible evidence that Begg was ever abused by US forces", and US intelligence officials insisted Begg exaggerated the harshness of his treatment.[4][29] The Department of Defense conducted three investigations, and "found no evidence to substantiate his claims."[37]

In a July 2004 letter, Begg wrote of "threats of torture, actual torture, death threats, racial and religious abuse", "cruel and unusual treatment", and that "documents ... were signed under duress".[47] He also wrote: "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".[47] Begg stated that while at Bagram, he saw two other detainees (Dilawar and Habibullah) being beaten so badly that he believed the beatings caused their deaths.[7][48] At the time DOD denied his account. In an investigation whose results were reported in May 2005, the Department of Defense confirmed Begg's account of the deaths of two Afghan detainees, and said they had been murdered via mistreatment by American soldiers.[9]

Detention in Guantanamo Bay[edit]

Cell in which a Guantanamo Bay prisoner was detained. Inset is the prisoners' reading room

Conditions and purported admissions[edit]

Begg was transferred on 2 February 2003 to United States military custody at Guantanamo Bay detention camp.[46][49] In a February 2003 editorial in Gulf News, Linda Heard reported that Begg had told his parents in a letter that he did not know what he was accused of and was beginning to feel hopeless and depressed.[50] He later confessed to being part of a plot to spray the Palace of Westminster with anthrax, a plan which seemed to security experts to be beyond his level of expertise.[50]

Begg was held in Guantanamo Bay for just under two years, often in solitary confinement.[51] The US government considered Begg an enemy combatant, and claimed that he trained at al-Qaeda terrorist camps in Afghanistan.[52] He was not charged with any crime and reportedly was not allowed to consult legal counsel for the majority of the time he spent there.[53]

A 9 October 2003 memo summarising a meeting between General Geoffrey Miller and his staff and Vincent Cassard of the International Committee of the Red Cross said that camp authorities did not permit them to have access to Begg, due to "military necessity."[54] This exception is allowed by the Geneva Conventions.

In a July 2004 letter, Begg said he was not tortured in Guantanamo, though the conditions were "torturous."[7] Late in 2004, Clive Stafford Smith (a British-born lawyer working in the US) visited Begg and said he heard "credible and consistent evidence" from Begg of torture, including the use of strappado.[55][56][57]

Begg's American lawyer, Gitanjali Gutierrez of the Center for Constitutional Rights, received a handwritten letter from him, dated 12 July 2004, addressed to the US Forces Administration at Guantanamo Bay. It was copied to Begg's lawyers, and the US authorities agreed to declassify it.[47][58][59] Its full text was passed to his British lawyer, Gareth Peirce. He insisted: "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".[47]

Known and suspected contacts with extremists and suspected extremists[edit]

Name Notes
Shahid Akram Butt
  • Leader of the 'Lynx Gang', in Birmingham, England; arrested in Britain for fraud with Begg, convicted, and convicted in Yemen of conspiring to cause death and destruction[10][23]
  • Known associate of Begg
Omar Saeed Sheikh
  • Volunteered on 1993 Convoy of Mercy trip; later convicted of kidnapping Western tourists in India, and is facing execution in Pakistan for murder of Daniel Pearl
  • US Department of Defense (DoD) suspects links, but Begg states he never met him[10]
Khalil al-Deek
  • Lived in Peshawar, Pakistan, while Begg lived there; associate of Abu Zubaydah, a senior al-Qaeda lieutenant; recruiter of Adam Gadahn, the current Al-Qaeda media head.[60]
  • DoD suspects they worked together to create a CD-ROM terrorist manual. Also invested with Begg, who states it was nothing more than that[10][61]
Abu Hamza al-Masri
  • US and British counterterrorism officials had believed since 1999 that Begg had a connection to al-Masri at Finsbury Park Mosque.[62]
Abu Zubaydah
  • Begg states he never met him, but DoD says he admitted to it during interrogation.[10][61]
Dhiren Barot
  • Convicted terrorist
  • Wrote a book that Begg's bookshop commissioned and published in 1999[63][64]
Richard C. Reid
  • Al-Qaeda member convicted of trying to blow up a flight with a shoe bomb
  • DoD suspects links, but Begg states he never met him[10]
Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi
  • Trainer for al-Qaeda
  • DoD suspects links, but Begg states he never met him[10]
Abu Qatada
  • Al-Qaeda terrorist
  • DoD suspects links, but Begg states he never met him[10]
Shaker Aamer
  • Guantanamo Bay analysts allege that Begg met Aamer in Pakistan in 1998 and visited James McLintock (the so-called 'Tartan Taliban').[65][66] They allege that Begg told interrogators he went to Ireland with Aamer in 2000 to visit Ibrahim Boyasseer, listed by the United Nations as an "Individual Associated with Al-Qaeda"[67][68]
Mahmoud Abu Rideh
  • An al-Qaeda leader arrested and detained in the UK for several years under a control order.[69]
  • Previously worked with Begg on a school for Arabic-speaking children in Afghanistan whose fathers included "some of the world's most wanted men."[69][70]
  • After campaigns for his release by Cageprisoners and Amnesty International, Rideh was released in 2009, and then reportedly killed by an airstrike in 2010.[69][71]


Following the United States Supreme Court decision in Rasul v. Bush (2004), in which the court ruled that detainees had habeas corpus rights and could challenge their detention, the US government quickly developed a system of Combatant Status Review Tribunals, Administrative Review Boards, and military commissions to provide the detainees with an "impartial tribunal" for reviewing their cases. Detainees could not call counsel, could not review the evidence against them, and had allegations made that were dependent on hearsay evidence. The British government protested subjecting their citizens to the planned Guantanamo tribunals, because due process rights were severely curtailed.[10]

On 11 January 2005, the British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw announced that, after "intensive and complex discussions" between his government and the US, the remaining four British nationals in Guantanamo Bay would be returned "within weeks".[72] While they were still regarded as "enemy combatants" by the US government, it had brought no specific charges against them. Bush released Begg as a favour to Prime Minister Tony Blair, reported The New York Times and CNN.[10][73][74][75]

On 25 January 2005, Begg and the three other British citizen detainees (Feroz Abbasi, Martin Mubanga and Richard Belmar) were flown to RAF Northolt in west London.[72][76] On arrival they were arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000 by officers from the Metropolitan Police and taken to Paddington Green Police Station for questioning by anti-terrorist officers. By 9.00pm on 26 January, all four had been released without charge.[72]

Post-release: January 2005–present[edit]

US assertions of Begg's ties to terrorism[edit]

Bush released Begg over the objections of the Pentagon, the CIA, and the FBI, overruling most of his senior national security advisers, who were concerned that Begg could be a dangerous terrorist.[10] In 2006, the Pentagon still maintained that he was a terrorist.[10]

After Begg's release, Bryan Whitman, a Defense Department spokesman, described Begg as follows: "He has strong, long-term ties to terrorism — as a sympathizer, as a recruiter, as a financier and as a combatant."[10] Whitman added, quoting from a single-spaced eight-page confession that Begg made while incarcerated, that Begg said:

I was armed and prepared to fight alongside the Taliban and al-Qaeda against the U.S. and others, and eventually retreated to Tora Bora to flee from U.S. forces when our front lines collapsed. ... [I] knowingly provided comfort and assistance to al-Qaeda members by housing their families, helped distribute al-Qaeda propaganda, and received members from terrorist camps knowing that certain trainees could become al-Qaeda operatives and commit acts of terrorism against the United States.[2][4][29]

Begg maintains the confession is false, and that he gave it while under duress.[2][4] Evidence gained under torture or coercion is not considered admissible in a court of law. Whitman said Begg was trying to recant his confession, and US intelligence officials maintain that Begg's statement is accurate.[4][29] The Department of Justice's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) investigated Begg's claim that the FBI forced him to sign his confession. The OIG "concluded that the evidence did not support the allegation that [FBI agents] coerced Begg into signing the statement."[37]

Former military interrogator Christopher Hogan said: "He provided us with excellent information routinely ... I don't think he was the mastermind of 9/11, but nor do I think he was just an innocent."[10] The New York Times reported in June 2006, "Of nearly 20 American military and intelligence officials who were interviewed about Begg, none thought he had been wrongly detained. But some said they doubted that he could be tied to any terrorist acts."[77]

In February 2005, British Home Secretary Charles Clarke refused to issue Begg a passport. He did so based on information obtained while Begg was in US custody. He said "there are strong grounds for believing that, on leaving the UK, [Begg] would take part in activities against the United Kingdom or allied targets."[78][79]

On 25 February 2014, Begg was arrested by West Midlands Police on suspicion of attending a terrorist training camp and facilitating terrorism overseas.[80] West Midlands Police said: "This is an arrest, not a charge, and ... our naming does not imply any guilt."[81]

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.[82] He was scheduled for a plea hearing on 14 July 2014, provisionally followed by a trial at the Old Bailey on 6 October 2014.[83] 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 Belmarsh Prison the same day.[84] In the coverage of his release a CPS spokesperson stated 'If we had been made aware of all of this information at the time of charging, we would not have charged.'[85]

Public positions[edit]

Since his release, Begg has stated he is against attacks such as 9/11 and that he supported those fighting against British soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.[86]

He founded the non-profit organisation and advocacy group Cageprisoners, where he currently is the director of outreach, to represent those detainees still held at Guantanamo, as well as help those who have been released to get services and integrate into society. He has travelled on speaking tours, and worked with governments of countries to persuade them to accept former detainees for resettlement.

[87] Following the 2014 Peshawar school massacre,in which over 130 pupils and teachers were killed by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, Begg wrote a comment on Facebook which was reported in his home town's main newspaper, the Birmingham Post. Begg stated that 'It is time to stop this cycle of uncontrolled rage and internecine violence that will only drive us to the pits of hell. Incessant calls for revenge each time need to be tempered with reflections on the consequences of what that means. There are no winners in this'.[88]

Alleged contacts with extremists after release[edit]

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was the president of the Islamic Society at University College London in 2007, when Begg gave a number of presentations.[89] The Times reported that Begg took part in the 'War on Terror Week' UCL presentations at Abdulmutallab's invitation.[90][91][92] The New York Times reported that Abdulmutallab helped organise the week as president of the college's Islamic society. Fabian De Fabiani, a student who attended, said Abdulmutallab was seated "where the lecturer would usually sit, very close [to Begg]".[93]

The Daily Mail reported that a poster for the event, featuring Begg's lecture, bore the name "Umar Farook".[94] Begg said that he does not recall Abdulmutallab, and that he was told that the ‘War on Terror Week’ UCL presentations were organised by Qasim Rafiq, a friend of Abdulmuttalab’s. He was told Abdulmutallab did not attend any of the lectures.[95] Three other presidents of the society in the UK were either been convicted of or arrested for terrorism activity in the year prior to Abdulmutallab's arrest.[96]

Begg interviewed the al-Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki, a former imam in the United States, after the latter was released from jail in Yemen in 2007.[37][97] Al-Awlaki was invited to address Cageprisoners' Ramadan fundraising dinners in August 2008 at Wandsworth Civic Centre, South London (by videolink, as he is banned from entering the UK), and August 2009 at Kensington Town Hall; the local authority told the group it could not broadcast al-Awlaki's words on its property.[98][99] Cageprisoners has material about and by al-Awlaki on its website.[98]


After his release, Begg appeared in the video 21st Century CrUSAders, saying that the War on Terrorism is really akin to a war against Islam.[63][100] The British government considers possession of this film to indicate possible radicalisation.[101]

Book, 2006[edit]

Begg co-authored a book released in March 2006 about his Guantanamo experiences. It was published in Britain as Enemy Combatant: A British Muslim's Journey To Guantanamo and Back (ISBN 0-7432-8567-0), and in the US as Enemy Combatant: My Imprisonment at Guantanamo, Bagram, and Kandahar (ISBN 1-59558-136-7).[10][102] It was co-written with Victoria Brittain, a former associate foreign editor of The Guardian. The book followed a play that the two co-wrote, entitled Guantanamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom, which played in London, New York and Washington, D.C.[103]

The book received mixed reviews. Publishers Weekly described it as "a fast-paced, harrowing narrative".[104] "Much of the Moazzam Begg story is consistent with other accounts of detention conditions in both Afghanistan and Guantanamo", said John Sifton, a New York-based official from Human Rights Watch, who interviewed former Guantanamo prisoners in Pakistan and Afghanistan.[105] The Muslim News called it an "open, honest and touching account".[106] Begg earned the distinction for "Published Writer Award" for the book, at the annual Muslim Writers Awards in March 2008.[107]

The New York Times reported "some notable gaps in Mr. Begg's memoir", in that he did not mention his previous arrest.[10] U-T San Diego said: "Begg has been less than forthcoming about his criminal past ... his cooperation with interrogators ... and his ties to terrorism".[108] Jonathan Raban, reviewing it for The New York Review of Books, wrote:

One has the sense of reading not a memoir but a résumé. Like most résumés, it feels airbrushed. It is a strategic (one might almost say a "campaign") biography ... Begg's travels [during the time the US maintains he was with the Taliban] get confusing, and plotting them on an atlas only adds to the reader's puzzlement. ... The gaps in his story — and they're more frustrating than downright suspicious — cease at the moment when Begg enters captivity. ... Enemy Combatant has been praised in Britain for Begg's outstanding liberality of mind and evenhandedness toward his captors.... Unfortunately, these relationships are rendered in long passages of direct speech and Begg and/or his coauthor are notably talentless at writing dialogue.... Perhaps Begg really did strike up a warm relationship with soldier Jennifer, but all one can say of the words on the page is that they are resoundingly phony. Only in bad fiction do people speak this way, and true though Begg's story may well be in its essential facts, it is very poorly served by line after line of rankly implausible writing.[30]

Lawsuit against the British government[edit]

In April 2008, Begg and other former Guantanamo detainees filed lawsuits at Britain's High Court against the British attorney general, Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary, MI5 and MI6, accusing them of unlawful acts, negligence and conspiracy in their abduction, treatment and interrogation and seeking millions of dollars in damages.[109] The government denied the charges, but stated that MI5 had interviewed some detainees and in some instances supplied questions that they wished the prisoners to be asked.[110]

The security service undertook this role because, as the British agency with the most experience of running intelligence-led counter-terrorist investigations in the UK, it was best placed to understand and utilise the information received about threats against the UK, or involving British nationals.[110]

In November 2010, the British Government announced that it had reached a financial settlement with a number of individuals, including Begg. The British Government said there was no evidence that British officials participated directly in the abuse of prisoners; however, a Public Inquiry was conducted to determine the matter.[111] Similar suits have been filed against the governments of Canada and Australia by former citizen detainees who returned to those countries. Canada settled with Maher Arar in January 2007.[112][113]

Guantanamo video game, 2009[edit]

In 2009 Begg was a technical advisor, and was slated to appear as himself, for the Scottish software company T-Enterprise in the development of a video game entitled Rendition: Guantanamo, for Microsoft's Xbox 360. The game would have put the player in the place of the detainees.[114][115][116] Begg was to do three days of sound with the company, and then be 3D-rendered into the game.[117]

Begg had a financial stake in the game. He said: "This game will not demean the reality of Guantanamo, but will help to bring those issues to people who would not usually think about it."[116] T-Enterprise hoped to earn £3 million on its £250,000 investment, targeting the Middle East market.[117][118]

Conservative pundits such as The Weekly Standard's Tom Joscelyn and radio host Rush Limbaugh reacted negatively to the game and Begg's involvement. The company received numerous complaints vial e-mail about the game.[119] T-Enterprise did not complete the game due to US press coverage, which it described as "inaccurate and ill informed speculation ... many conclusions were reached that have absolutely no foundation whatsoever."[115]

Speaker and activist[edit]

As Director for the prisoner rights organisation, Cageprisoners, Begg has appeared in the media and around the country, lecturing on issues pertaining to the British Muslim community, such as imprisonment without trial, torture, anti-terror legislation and measures and community relations. He has appeared as a commentator on radio and television interviews and documentaries, including the BBC's Panorama[120] and Newsnight[121] shows, PBS's The Prisoner,[122] Al-Jazeera's Prisoner 345, Taking Liberties, and Torturing Democracy, and National Geographic's Guantanamo's Secrets.[123] He has authored pieces which have appeared in newspapers and magazines.[124][125][126][127]

He has toured as a speaker about his time in detention facilities, calling the British response to terrorism as racist, and disproportionate to anti-terror measures and legislation during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.[128] In January 2009, Begg toured the UK with former Guantanamo guard Christopher Arendt, in the Two Sides, One Story tour.[129]

Begg campaigned against US wartime policy with human rights organisations such as Reprieve, Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights, PeaceMaker and Conflicts Forum.[130][131][132][133][134]

Appeal to Iraqi kidnappers, 2005[edit]

On 9 December 2005, Begg made a video appeal to the Swords of Righteousness Brigade, the Iraqi kidnappers of four Western peace workers, asking for their release.[135] There was an inter-faith effort calling for the men's release.[136] A detainee held in Britain also appealed for release of the men.[137] In early March 2006, the body of the American hostage, Tom Fox, was found in Baghdad. A week-long military operation led by British forces secured the release of the remaining three hostages that month; one from Britain and two from Canada.[138]

Amnesty International controversy, 2010[edit]

In 2010, Gita Sahgal, then head of Amnesty's gender unit, publicly condemned her organisation for its collaboration with Begg because of his association with Cageprisoners. She said its "Counter Terror With Justice" campaign "constitutes a threat to human rights".[139] In a letter to Amnesty's leadership, she said: "To be appearing on platforms with Britain's most famous supporter of the Taliban, whom we treat as a human rights defender, is a gross error of judgment."[139]

Begg filed a complaint with the Press Complaints Commission and notified his attorney to pursue legal action against The Sunday Times for publishing Sahgal's comments.[140] Amnesty International posted a response by Widney Brown, Senior Director for International Law and Policy, on its blog "LiveWire".[141]

The noted writer Salman Rushdie was among those who criticised the association. [142] MP Dennis McShane and journalists, including Christopher Hitchens, Martin Bright and Nick Cohen, also strongly criticised Amnesty's endorsement of Begg.[143][144][145][146][147]

Sahgal was suspended and ultimately resigned from Amnesty International.

2014 arrest[edit]

In July 2014, Begg was charged by the British government with terrorist activities related to his alleged actions in the Syrian Civil War, including attending a terrorist training camp.[148] During this time he was held in Belmarsh, the British high-security prison.[149] All charges were dropped and Begg was released in October 2014.[84] According to The Guardian, the case against Begg was dropped after documents were disclosed to the court before trial showing that MI5 had been aware of and consented to his travels to Syria. Begg's car had been "bugged" for a year by MI5.[150]

Representation in other media[edit]

  • Begg was among people interviewed in the documentary, Taxi to the Dark Side (2007), directed by American filmmaker Alex Gibney, about the murder of Dilawar at Bagram. The film won an Academy Award for best documentary.
  • Begg was interviewed in a documentary of great clarity and gravitas called The Confession (2016), focusing on his life, the run-up to his incarceration in Guantánamo Bay and his subsequent life. It was given four stars by the Guardian.[151]

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]