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Guantanamo mystery over Briton

A British man has been arrested in Pakistan as part of US President George Bush's so-called war on terror, and disappeared.

Last Modified: 29 Oct 2003 12:38 GMT
Preparing for evening prayer - detainees in Guantanamo Bay

A British man has been arrested in Pakistan as part of US President George Bush's so-called war on terror, and disappeared.

Confusion and mystery now surround the exact whereabouts of Tariq Mahmud, a father of two, from central Britain.

Mahmud, thought to be in his 30s, is understood to have been arrested in an international sting set up by American, British and Pakistan intelligence officials.

His elderly parents from Birmingham have no idea where their son is, but Aljazeera.net understands Mahmud has been moved to a secure unit, possibly in Afghanistan.

Kidnap fears

The first his family knew of his arrest ten days ago was when a British Foreign Office official contacted the family on Monday, 27 October.

The family now fears he will be sent to Guantanamo Bay to join the 600 plus other detainees whom the US describes as Taliban and al-Qaida suspects - he may even be there already.

The Foreign Office told Aljazeera.net: "Our consular staff in Islamabad are making enquiries with Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs."

The spokesman said he could add nothing further nor confirm or deny reports Mahmud had been "spirited" or "kidnapped" from Pakistan and taken to Afghanistan.

The US is known to have taken prisoners to its base in Baghram, Afghanistan, often before moving them on to Guantanamo Bay.

Parallel case

If this is the case, his plight has startling parallels to another Guantanamo detainee, British-born Muazzam Begg. He was seized in Pakistan in February 2002 and transferred to Guantanamo Bay a year later over suspected links with al-Qaida and the Taliban.

The US has taken more than 680
detainees to its base in Cuba

"The Pakistan government can not arrest someone without informing the British High Commission," said Azmat Begg, father of Muazzam.

"From my own experience with the authorities I really feel for the family of this man."

Begg's father, speaking to Aljazeera.net from his home in Birmingham, said he had never heard of Tariq Mahmud and doubted if there were any connections between him and his son.

Starved of information about his son, he added the only thing Mahmud's family could do was "write letters to the British Foreign Office and the International Red Cross for any news".

Protests

Earlier this year, Washington caused international outrage when it announced it would try six detainees in military tribunals, away from public scrutiny.

This decision provoked protests from human rights groups as well as the friends and lawyers of the two Britons, 23-year-old Feroz Abbasi and 35-year-old Begg.

The London-based rights group Amnesty International expressed concern the tribunals would impose the death penalty - "an inhumane punishment outlawed in the UK and opposed by human rights campaigners around the world.

"The proposed tribunals do not comply with international law. They are not independent since their members are appointed by the US Executive," Amnesty said.

Military tribunals

There are seven other Britons in Guantanamo, but they were not in the group chosen to appear before a military tribunal.

The US set up the Guantanamo Bay detention centre in 2002 to hold suspected al-Qaida members, captured during the invasion of Afghanistan.

At least 680 men are being held there in clear breach of the Geneva Conventions.

The number of British detainees may have increased by one with the arrival of Tariq Mahmud... but no one from the US military was prepared to confirm or deny his existence.

At the time of writing, no one from the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs was able to help, either, over the whereabouts of a British man arrested 10 days ago.

Source:
Aljazeera
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