Guantanamo Briton tells of torture and death threats

A British detainee at Guantanamo Bay has revealed how he saw two prisoners die at the hands of their American captors, before making a plea for his release in the first letter from a serving prisoner at the camp to be made public.

Moazzam Begg, held on suspicion of having links with al-Qa’ida, added that he had been tortured and subjected to death threats by his captors.

In a four-page, hand-written letter dated 12 July and newly declassified by the US, Begg, from Birmingham, wrote: “In this atmosphere of severe antipathy towards detainees was the compounded use of racially and religiously prejudiced taunts. 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.”

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Begg also said that United States law enforcement officers had forced him to sign various documents during his incarceration. He is demanding to be released, having been captured in Pakistan in 2002.

The plea for his release comes just weeks before Begg and three other British detainees in Cuba are due to face military tribunals. Five of the nine Britons originally detained at Guantanamo were released without charge in March.

The letter also called for Begg to receive a visit from psychiatrists due to concerns about his mental health.

Mr Begg, whose letter was the first from a serving prisoner at Camp Delta to be made public, also wrote: “During several interviews, particularly – though unexclusively – in Afghanistan, I was subjected to pernicious threats of torture, actual vindictive torture and death threats – amongst other coercively employed interrogation techniques.”

“I state here, unequivocally and for the record, that any documents presented to me by US law enforcement agents were signed and initialled under duress, thus rendered legally contested in validity.”

He said interviews were held in an environment of “generated fear, resonant with terrifying screams of fellow detainees facing similar methods.”

Begg, 36, said he was “a law-abiding citizen of the UK” with no links to Al-Qa’ida, and had never “engaged in hostile acts” against the US.

Begg demanded to know why he was abducted from Pakistan “under the auspices of US intelligence and law enforcement” and taken forcibly to Afghanistan in January 2002.

In the letter, he claimed he had been “degradingly stripped by force, and filmed.

While being held at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan for a year he claims he was denied natural light, fresh food and had been held in solitary confinement since 8 February 2003. He claims he was allowed few family letters, with even letters from his eight-year-old child being censored.

He asked: “What was the legality and purpose of extracting my signature on a statement in early February 2003 under threats of long-term imprisonment, summary trials and execution – all without legal representation?”

Mr Begg’s US counsel, Clive Stafford Smith, will demand that the US declassify evidence of the two alleged killings described in the letter and that statements allegedly obtained by torture will not be used to justify Begg’s further detention.

‘I AM A LAW-ABIDING CITIZEN’

Extracts from Moazzam Begg’s letter

To whom it may concern.

During several interviews, particularly … in Afghanistan, I was subjected to pernicious threats of torture, actual vindictive torture and death threats – amongst other coercively employed interrogation techniques.

I state here, for the record, any documents presented to me by US law enforcement agents were signed under duress, thus rendered legally contested in validity.

The interviews were conducted in an environment of generated fear, resonant with terrifying screams of detainees … In this atmosphere of severe antipathy towards detainees was the … use of racially and religiously prejudiced taunts. This culminated, in my opinion, with the deaths of two detainees at the hands of US military personnel, to which I was partially witness.

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 been alleged. I have neither met Osama bin Laden, nor been a member of al-Qa’ida – or any synonymous paramilitary organisation or group.

Neither have I engaged in hostile acts against the USA, nor assisted such groups in the same – though the opportunity has availed itself many a time, and motive.

Regardless of the outcome of all my appeals to sanity, and protestations … I reiterate my intention to seek justice. What was the legality and purpose of extracting my signature on a statement in early February 2003 under threats of long-term imprisonment, summary trials and execution – all without legal representation?

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Source

(Listed if other than Religion News Blog)
Independent, UK
Oct. 2, 2004
Matthew Beard
news.independent.co.uk

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