Guantanamo letter alleges torture

One of four British detainees still held by the United States

Last Modified: 02 Oct 2004 13:37 GMT
Moazzam Begg said he witnessed the deaths of two detainees

One of four British detainees still held by the United States at the Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba says he has been subjected to vindictive torture and death threats.

In a hand-written letter released by his lawyers on Friday, Moazzam Begg, from Birmingham in the English Midlands, also says he has witnessed the deaths of two fellow detainees "at the hands of US military personnel".


It is not known how the letter made it past US military censors.


Begg, 36, who has been detained for more than two years now, insisted he was a law-abiding British citizen, that he had never met Usama bin Ladin, and was not a member of al-Qaida or any other paramilitary organisation.


His four-page letter marked the first time that any communication from a serving Guantanamo detainee has been made public, the attorneys said.


Pernicious threats


"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," Begg wrote.


"In this atmosphere of severe antipathy towards detainees was the compounded use of racially and religiously prejudiced taunts.


Begg's letter escaped the
attention of camp censors

"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," he added.


Begg, who was arrested in Pakistan in February 2002, was among nine British citizens known to have been detained at Guantanamo. 


Four were released last March, then freed without charge upon their arrival in Britain.


Three of them have since alleged in a dossier published in July that they had been abused while in US captivity.


The remaining four - Begg; Feroz Abbasi, 23; Martin Mubanga, 29; and Richard Belmar, 23, all from London - face trial by military tribunals for alleged involvement in "global terrorism".


Legal demand


Begg's letter, dated 12 July 2004, was addressed "to whom it may concern" at the US Forces Administration at Guantanamo Bay. It was signed with his name and his prisoner number, 00558.


He requested at the end of the letter that copies be sent to the home secretary, the US Supreme Court, the European Court of Human Rights, Amnesty International, and the International Committee of the Red Cross.


"What do we do when Mr Begg's captors are in fact a state, a rogue state, acting wholly illegally?"

Gareth Pierce,
civil liberties lawyer

Begg's US counsel, Clive Stafford Smith, said he would file a legal demand next Monday to immediately end his client's "inhuman treatment" and for the US Government to publish detailed evidence of Begg's alleged torture.


Civil liberties lawyer Gareth Pierce, meanwhile, called upon the British government to take Begg's letter to the United Nations as evidence of torture, with the demand that the US be held responsible.


"But most importantly in the case of Mr Begg that he is repatriated immediately," he said.


"What do we do when Mr Begg's captors are in fact a state, a rogue state, acting wholly illegally?"

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