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'Two people were beaten to death'

Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg tells C4 news what he saw

Questions posed by Jon Snow are marked with a Q

Published: 24-02-2005

By: Channel 4 news

Former Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg, freed last month after nearly three years in captivity, has accused his American captors of torturing him and other detainees arrested in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Mr Begg, in his first broadcast interview since his release, has told Channel 4 News that he “witnessed two people get beaten so badly that I believe it caused their deaths”.

The deaths occurred at Bagram in Afghanistan, where Mr Begg was held before being transported to Guantanamo Bay in February 2003. He says he was subsequently asked to identify the perpetrators when investigators from American intelligence interviewed him in Guantanamo.

MOAZZAM BEGG: I witnessed two people get beaten so badly that I believe it caused their deaths. And one of those deaths was later investigated and those investigators turned up to Guantanamo Bay and asked me if I would be willing to point out the perpetrators of that, those beatings, of what I witnessed.

Q: But you are convinced two, two of your fellow inmates, effectively were killed by the guards.

BEGG: Yes. I saw one body actually being carried away and the other one, I wasn’t sure whether he had been killed but the photographs that the American intelligence officers had brought confirmed that this person had been killed.

Mr Begg claims he was tortured himself at Bagram, though not in Guantanamo.

Q: People have talked about torture in Guantanamo, would you say you had been tortured?

BEGG: I would say the conditions were torturous, but myself I don’t think I was, I was tortured in Guantanamo.

Q: Would you say you were tortured in Bagram?

BEGG: Yes. Yes. A particularly harsh interrogation took place in May, in which I faced two members of the FBI, one CIA, one major, and one other unknown chap, and I believe it’s those, amongst them that date, particularly the FBI and the CIA, which had ordered my punishment or harsh treatment, which included me being hog-tied, left in a room with a bag put over my head, even though I suffered from asthma.

Q: What does hog-tied mean?

BEGG: It means having your hands tied behind your back and then simultaneously having them tied to your legs and your ankles and shackled from behind; left on a floor with a bag over my head, and kicked and punched and left there for several hours, only to be interrogated again. And, after which they threatened to have me sent to Egypt, to be tortured, to face electric shocks, to have my fingers broken, to be sexually abused, and, and the like.

Born in Birmingham with dual Pakistani nationality, it was on a family holiday there that the process of a political awakening begins in 1993. Moazzam Begg went across the border to near the city of Khost in Afghanistan in 1993 - there he says he met various groups of nationalist and Islamic rebels - many backed by America - fighting against the occupying Soviet forces.

The Guantanamo detainee admits visiting two training camps in Afghanistan in 1993 and 1998. He says the first, in 1993, was run by the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. Mr Begg says he stayed there for two weeks. People at the camp were being trained in small arms, including, he thinks, Kalashnikovs and small hand guns. Mr Begg says he didn’t train himself.

He visited a second camp in 1998 near Jalalabad, he says, for a day and a half. Mr Begg claims it was run by Kurds who had been fighting against Saddam Hussein, not by Al Qaeda.

He says he was in Afghanistan when the 9/11 attacks happened.

BEGG: I’d, a friend of mine, I’d phoned him and he told me that there could be imminent attacks on Afghanistan, that they’re blaming al-Qaeda that’s based in around Kandahar for being responsible. And I remember saying to him quite clearly that I hope that the perpetrators of 9/11 are brought to justice but I really hope that they don't bring everybody else and try to blame everybody else for the responsibility of this attack. You know it’s a, I don't believe in any attacks against any civilians around the world, wherever they are, it’s nothing I’ve been brought up to believe, nothing that I believe now, whether it's aeroplanes flying into buildings or whether it’s bombs being dropped from 30,000 feet, indiscriminately bombing women and children or others that are not involved.

Moazzam Begg admits he’d visited Bosnia in the early 1990s and was ‘terribly affected by some of the stories that I’d heard of the atrocities taking place there’. But he denies he took up arms there, although he says he was tempted.

BEGG: I’d thought about it but to take up arms against some … the, the war in Bosnia had started and finished, and what was taking place in Chechnya I supported foreign fighters and through financial support but I never took up arms myself.

'I never took up arms myself'

How Moazzam Begg was arrested

Published: 24-02-2005

By: Channel 4 news

Further extracts from C4 news' exclusive interview with Moazzam Begg.

Moazzam Begg went across the border to near the city of Khost in Afghanistan in 1993 - there he says he met various groups of nationalist and Islamic rebels - many backed by America - fighting against the occupying Soviet forces.

Q. This was a training camp.

Begg: Yes.

Q. Training in what?

Begg: They were training in small arms. I think they used kalashnikovs and small hand guns.

Q. Did you train?

Begg: No. No I didn't, I stayed there for about two weeks, had to get back to work, literally.

Q. So what were you doing there if you weren't training?

Begg: Just literally looking at what they do and how they live and speaking to them first hand about all that they'd suffered. I spoke to several people who had, I spoke to one person who had his house broken into and his wife was raped in front of him and that was just one of many different stories that I come across from these people. If Britain were invaded by another country what would we do? We would fight for our survival. That's literally what's happening in a lot of these places.

But it was a Muslim cause in Europe that acted as the ideological breakthrough for Begg - since leaving school he had attempted various jobs - often with his businessman father - and dropped out of a part-time law course - he was struggling to give his life some purpose.

Begg: I'd come to another point in my life which was almost the point of no return.

Q. What was that?

Begg: That was the conflict in the former Bosnia, Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Herzegovina. What took place there were events I think that affected me so much that caused a, a turnabout in my life, that I think may have been instrumental in what was to happen in the next 10 years. Some refugees had turned up, both Muslims and Croat, orthodox - sorry - Catholics - who turned up to the Birmingham mosque and I went, like a shot, to go and see them. I took some food and medicines and blankets and tried to talk to them and trying to find out what's really taking place over there. And I was terribly affected by some of the stories that I'd heard of the atrocities taking place there.

Q. So by the end of this experience, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the son of this conservative bank manager had been radicalised.

Begg: I would say to a degree, not radicalised in the sense, and of course it is very important to understand that when we talk about radicalisation, it wasn't that I believed in the concept of what they claimed Osama Bin Laden is stating or al-Qaeda or anything like that at all. I just believed in the right of these people to defend themselves. I believed in the right, if somebody is getting raped, if a child is getting his throat cut just because somebody doesn't want to waste a bullet on him, then he has to be protected somehow. If the world community is not doing it, then it's the people of the country have to be helped in defending themselves.

Q. Did you take up arms? Begg: No

Q. Did you feel tempted to?

Begg: Yes, I did feel tempted to but I had no experience in helping refugees in which way I could.

He sets up a bookshop in Birmingham's Ladypool Road. It attracted like-minded Muslims. At this time Begg is arrested but not charged over benefit fraud - and in a court document relating to one detainee currently being held at Belmarsh, an uncorroborated intelligence source refers to weapons being found at Begg's house at this time. Police raided the shop in 2000. Moazzam Begg was arrested under anti-terrorism laws but released without charge.

Q. This was an Islamic bookshop?

Begg: That's correct, yes. Yes.

Q. At which, which became a kind of little community centre or what did it sell besides books?

Begg: It sold sort of Islamic products; clothing, honey and all sorts of Islamic-related products.

Q. Tapes?

Begg: It sold cassettes, video tapes, oils and all sorts of stuff like that.

Q. Political?

Begg: To some degree - it wasn't completely. I mean if you look at the bookshop in its whole essence, it was only a small part of it that dealt with politics or anything other than religious values.

Q. Would you have sold tapes of Bin Laden?

Begg: Not that I, not whilst I was there, no.

In 1998 while on another trip to Pakistan he made a second visit to Afghanistan - this time to near Jalalabad - but now it was a land ruled by the Muslim extremists the Taliban - previously supported by America in their struggle against the Soviets.

They were now increasingly seen as a pariah regime - partly because of their association with terrorists such as Osama Bin Laden who had already struck against the US embassy in Kenya.

Begg: I visited a camp at that time, which was a -

Q. Whose camp was that?

Begg: This was a camp run by Kurds, who had been fighting against Saddam Hussein's forces in northern Iraq.

Q. But Jalalabad, you're getting quite close to kind of al-Qaeda influences.

Begg: Well again, like I said, al-Qaeda's influences could well be all round the place but in reality it's, they, I think there must have been at one point or another at least 50 or so training camps in Afghanistan, of which al-Qaeda may have had two, to say ...

Q. But you were aware of al-Qaeda in 1998.

Begg: I had come across the name, yes, I had come across the name.

Q. And Osama Bin Laden?

Begg: I didn't know of him until I think the embassy bombings, a lot afterwards.

Q. In Africa.

Begg: Yes, I think that was, I think late 98.

Q. That's when he came to your notice.

Begg: Yes, that's when I think he came to the sort of world notice really.

Q. Let me just press you again, these, these, you went to two different camps and you say so in your testimony to the Americans, it's hard to believe - well first of all it's difficult for somebody sitting in London to understand why anyone would go to a training camp if they didn't want to be trained, and you did it twice.

Begg: Right.

Q. Five years apart.

Begg: Yeah.

Q. Why did you go?

Begg: As I said the first time that I went I, I'm of Pakistani origin, I'm a dual national, national of Pakistan and Great Britain. People from Britain visit Pakistan all the time, I mean thousands and thousands I think go every month, so it really wasn't such a big deal, and Afghanistan is only literally next door, it's like popping over to France, or not even that, it's like popping over to Wales. So it really was not such a big deal.

Q. Not going to the country but going to the training camps.

Begg: Even so it was literally just over the border. I went to see, to observe something that I had never seen before.

Q. But in the intervening years, one was clearly an American-funded camp which was effectively Northern Alliance.

Begg: Uhmm.

Q. But in 1998 things had changed and therefore the camp that you would have visited would have been more closely allied to the Taliban, to al Qaeda.

Begg: Again, not necessarily, because this one that I visited was actually closed down by the Taliban and it was closed down in, I think that's the very same year, because as far as I understand it, and this is what I've been led to believe by American interrogators and so forth, is that al-Qaeda tried to sort of consolidate their control of Afghanistan and have all the camps, no matter wherever the origins were, under their umbrella.

Q. And this wasn't a man who had witnessed awful suffering in Bosnia, awful suffering in Afghanistan and who had decided, frankly, maybe my calling is to take up arms?

Begg: I'd thought about it but to take up arms against some …ike the, the war in Bosnia had started and finished, and what was taking place in Chechnya I supported foreign fighters and through financial support but I never took up arms myself.

Q. Never?

Moazzam: No.