By Karin Friedemann, TMO
A bail hearing took place on Friday, May 2, 2014 in the Old Bailey courthouse of London for human rights campaigner Moazzam Begg, 45, who was arrested in February on terrorism charges relating to his work in Syria. High Court Justice Nigel Sweeney denied him bail. There is a total media blackout about what arguments took place in court.
â€œCAGE would like to comment on MB bail hearing… but we have been gagged along with every journalist who attended the court. We direct all media requests to the court and Her Majestyâ€™s government,â€ reads the website of the organization Begg founded to support political prisoners of the War on Terror.
â€œIt is alleged that between 14 July and 8 August 2013 he became concerned in an arrangement as a result of which money or other property was to be made available to another person, knowing or having reasonable cause to suspect that it would be or might be used for the purposes of terrorism. He is also accused of providing instruction or training between 9 October 2012 and 9 April 2013 knowing the person receiving it intended to use the skills for or in connection with preparation of acts of terrorism,â€ reported the Independent, UK.
On March 14, 2014, Begg pled â€œnot guiltyâ€ to the charges. A plea hearing is scheduled on July 18 and his trial date is October 6, 2014.
â€œBritish Muslims are becoming ensnared by increasingly intrusive and illiberal counter-terrorism policies targeting those deemed to be â€œextremeâ€ in their faith,â€ reports Al Jazeera.
The much-beloved former Guantanamo Bay detainee was captured in Pakistan in 2002 by the US and detained in Bagram, the US prison in Afghanistan, before being transferred to the American prison camp in Cuba. The British citizen of Pakistani descent was released in 2005 from Guantanamo without ever being charged with a crime, though the CIA still considers him an Al Qaeda terrorist.
Begg lived in a home in Birmingham, England, which he bought for his family with his compensation money from the US. He is now being held in Belmarsh prison in London. After his sudden arrest in March, his home was raided and searched by a counter-terrorism unit of the police, which set up a â€œforensic tentâ€ in his backyard and confiscated various things from the house. Police took away two cars belonging to Begg and his wife Sally, 42. A West Midlands Police spokesman told media that the police actions against Begg did â€˜not imply any guiltâ€™. Three other local homes were also raided.
A declassified Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO) document leaked to the New York times dated November 1, 2003, states:
â€œBased on the detaineeâ€™s folder, the knowledgeability brief, and subsequent interrogations by JTF Guantanamo, the detainee is of significant intelligence value to the United States. Based on the above information, detainee poses a high threat to the U.S., its interests and its allies.â€
Former Guantanamo guard, Terry Holdbrooks writes that he â€œwill always be grateful that Moazzam was in GTMO when I was there. He worked as an intermediary for the guards and detainees and continually helped keep the peace. His ability to reason with the most hate filled, brainwashed and socially inept of guards was a valuable asset for everyone. â€
Begg has reported in detail about British fighters in Syria and other issues related to the civil war, including his interviews with torture victims, on the Cageprisoners website. Begg is not being detained so that the US can find out some secret information. He is being isolated to prevent him from communicating with others.
â€œBegg was recently stopped by Kent Police at Dover Airport as he accompanied a Syria aid convoy. Several such convoys have been stopped and at least one, in December 2012, was found to contain Â£36,000 and $10,000 in cash. Police are still investigating what the money was for. Last October, Charity Commission chairman William Shawcross warned it was almost inevitable that some charity money would end up in the hands of terrorists.â€
â€œThere has been increasing concern from police and MI5 about an estimated 400 young British Muslims who have travelled to Syria to wage holy war with Al Qaeda-linked groups,â€ reported Sam Greenhill and Chris Greenwood in the UK Daily Mail.
British imam and author Abdalhaqq Bewley responds, â€œIt appears that Moazzam and others are accused of supporting the training of recruits in Syria. But is it not natural and proper that British Muslims who have made the decision to go and fight â€“and that is very few by all accounts compared to those who are traveling to Syria for purely humanitarian purposes â€“that they should receive training before entering the war they want to fight in?
â€œWhy, and on what basis, does that become a crime in British law, subject, apparently, to prosecution and imprisonment in the UK? Is the struggle of the Syrian people to free themselves from what they see as a tyrannical dictatorship, a struggle which was openly supported by the government here until a very short time ago, now being seen through the eyes of that very dictatorship and relegated to the category of being terrorist activity?â€
Heba Dabbagh, author of â€œJust Five Minutes: Nine Years in the Prisons of Syria,â€ a book that Begg praised highly, prays:
â€œI ask Allah the Most High, the Greatest to release brother Moazzam from the distress and injustice that has come upon him and to appoint for his family patience to deal with this tribulation.â€