Free… leaving Belmarsh Prison (Photo from “Free Moazzam” Campaign)
It is with great delight that I heard some good news today… human rights campaigner, Moazzam Begg has been cleared of ALL 7 charges against him related to the conflict in Syria which included an allegation that he attended a terrorist training camp there. He was arrested earlier this year on terrorism offences along with a man age 36, a 44 year old woman and her 20 year old son.
Moazzam was previously detained for several years at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, without trial and released without charge. Following this second arrest, he spent seven months in custody awaiting trial which was due to start on Monday and had pleaded not guilty to all charges against him. At the time of Moazzam’s arrest I wrote,
“my fellow activist comes across as a voice of reason in unreasonable times, a man of compassion in a world of increasing paranoia and hatred, a source of valued information who stands out from the peddlers of propaganda and false narratives. He is a man who befriended some of his former guards at Guantanamo and has not given in to bitterness and revenge. Moazzam chooses to educate and promote tolerance and understanding across diverse communities in accordance with the teachings of Islam”
Cage (formerly CagePrisoners) where Moazzam was appointed Director released the following press statement,
CAGE  is vindicated by the announcement that all seven charges against our Outreach Director Moazzam Begg have now been dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service due to lack of evidence.
Asim Qureshi, Research Director of CAGE, said:
“This has been a testing time for Moazzam, his family and the Muslim community. The criminalisation of virtually any Muslim that has been to Syria has only increased in intensity, while CAGE has been attacked from every angle by a host of government agencies . We hope that Moazzam’s release is a sign that the government are now willing to adopt a more measured strategy in relation to anti-terrorism policy and avoid the attempt to criminalise all dissent and crush any organisation like CAGE that stands up for the rule of law and justice.”
“CAGE and Moazzam have been maligned, defamed and vilified by far too many and we hope that now our calls for the protection of basic rights and innovative approaches built on dialogue to dispute resolution will now be heeded. Violence and the destruction of freedoms and liberties inherent in the War on Terror doctrine can never be the solution.”
“We thank everyone for their support of Moazzam, his family and the CAGE movement.”
In a chilling prediction of things to come Moazzam warned that “sometimes knowing too much can be a curse.” Back in January he wrote an article highlighting the continual pressure he was under for trying to empower Muslims at a time when the community was being “purposefully undermined.” After a trip to South Africa, he returned to the UK only to be served notice regarding the confiscation of his passport as officials were assessing his previous visits to Syria and whether they constituted involvement in terrorism. These are Moazzam’s words,
“I am certain that the only reason I am being continually harassed – something that began long before any visit to Syria – is because CagePrisoners and I are at the forefront of investigations and assertions based on hard evidence that British governments, past and present, have been wilfully complicit in torture.
How logical is it to stop me from travelling anywhere in the world simply because they want to prevent me from going to Syria? Numerous British citizens have been prevented from entering Turkey (the key entry point to Syria) at the behest of the British authorities. They could have done the same with me.
It is these government-shaking issues that are the real reason why I have been continually harassed and targeted by the authorities in this country. I am not and never have been in anyway a threat to them, unless words seeking accountability are a threat”
News regarding Moazzam being cleared comes soon after the announcement of Abu Qatada, a 53 year old cleric also being cleared of terror charges in Jordan after he was deported from the UK following an 8 year legal battle. In an article, “From Bethlehem to Belmarsh” (2012) it was Moazzam that highlighted the “witchhunt” against Qatada, labelled by both British government and media as “radical” and ” extremist” and fought for his rights to be upheld. He stated,
“If Abu Qatada is the “truly dangerous individual” that the Special Immigration and Appeals Commission (SIAC) judge claimed him to be, there are some serious questions the Government must answer about him:
- Why in over ten years has Abu Qatada never been questioned by the police or intelligence services?
- Why can no one produce any evidence against Abu Qatada at a time when Britain has more antiterrorism legislation in place than it did at the height of the IRA campaign?
- Why has the terrorism threat level in this country not decreased since Abu Qatada, who constitutes such a “threat to national security”, has been in custody?”
Both these men now deserve an apology. In fact it if anyone acted in an “extreme” way, it was Home Secretary Theresa May who tried every which way to deprive Qatada and others of their rights and threatened to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights in 2013 for what she deemed, “a crazy interpretation of our human rights laws”.
It is Theresa May that is announcing proposed new legislation from the Conservative Party, “extremism disruption orders”. According to the Guardian restrictions would include, “banned individuals from broadcasting, from associating with named people, and restricting their use of social media or the internet by requiring them to submit in advance any proposed publication to the police.” These proposals are already being heavily criticized by human rights organizations. The question is, given the recent history of wrongful accusations, which bodies would decide who is deemed to be “extreme” and what criteria would then be used!
Link (see article, Feb 28th 2014)
“Missing Moazzam: For former Guantanamo detainee, the ordeal continues”
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad . She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.