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Guantanamo families arrive in US

Mar. 7, 2004 • Monday March 8, 2004

The families of three British men held at Guantanamo Bay for two years without trial have arrived in the US.

They are there to put pressure on the American government to ensure prisoners at the US base in Cuba are treated in line with international law.

On Monday, they will deliver letters to the White House in protest at what they say is a violation of law.

Around 660 Taleban and al-Qaeda suspects are still being held at Guantanamo Bay.

The relatives have been joined by former hostage Terry Waite and actors Corin and Vanessa Redgrave and form part of a delegation from the the Guantanamo Human Rights Commission.

Azmat Begg, whose son Moazzam is one of four Britons who will remain at Guantanamo when five others are released, is also among the delegation.

They will spend five days in New York and Washington meeting church leaders and human rights groups.

‘Hooded and shackled’

Speaking before the trip, Mr Waite, who was held captive in Beirut for five years, said his family knew what it was like not to hear any information about a loved one.

He said: “There are many families around the world who are in this same position now because of Guantanamo Bay.”

“The detainees have been hooded, shackled and, I understand, kept in cages which, in itself, amounts to mental torture,” he added.

Actor Corin Redgrave said many parents of detainees had not spoken to their sons for months, some for two years.

He told BBC News: “We know there are anything from 32 to 40 suicide attempts which would suggest that the conditions, which amount to mental torture, under which they’ve been held have placed them in very grave danger of going out of their minds.”

He said the US was setting a “dangerous example” to countries it hoped “to convince of the value of the democratic values on which it’s based”.


The families’ case recevied a fresh boost when Home Secretary David Blunkett criticised their treatment by the US authorities.

He told Sky News’s Sunday with Adam Boulton that he believed the way the alleged terrorists being held at Guantanamo Bay had been treated was wrong.

“I would like to see them treated in the way we have treated those we believe are suspected of and have been involved in terrorism which is to give them a proper due process; a legal process which has a right of appeal,” he added.

“People have a right to legal representation and to challenge the decisions taken,” he added.

He also called for the hundreds of other detainees to be treated “fairly and in humane fashion”.


Last month Foreign Secretary Jack Straw announced five of the nine UK terror suspects held at Guantanamo Bay are to be released.

The five are Ruhal Ahmed, Tarek Dergoul, Jamal Al-Harith, Asif Iqbal and Shafiq Rasul.

On Friday, Maxine Fiddler, sister of Mr Al Harith, said she had found out her brother would be returning to the UK next week.

It is not known if the five will face criminal investigations on their return to the UK.

Feroz Abbasi, Martin Mubanga and Richard Belmar, together with Moazzam Begg, are set to remain in Guantanamo Bay.

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