Guantanamo Brits set for release

A leading civil rights lawyer has criticised the British government for not doing enough to secure the release of British prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

Zumrati Juma, mother of Feroz Abbasi and Louise Christian (R)
Zumrati Juma, mother of Feroz Abbasi and Louise Christian (R)

Louise Christian is representing two UK citizens, Feroz Abbasi and Moazzam Begg, who have been locked up in Guantanamo Bay for two years without charge.

Christian has told that the fact that the men are British means that they are less likely to be released before prisoners from other countries.

“You’re better off having a Pakistani passport if you’re locked up in Guantanamo, as it seems that the Pakistani government has done far better in getting their citizens released than the British government has.

“It’s absolutely astounding to me that this should be the case considering the status of Britain and the so called special relationship that Tony Blair and George Bush share”, says Christian.


As speculation mounts over the possible release of British prisoners from Guantanamo in the next few weeks, Christian says that there is strong domestic opposition to such a move

“I have been informed that there are leading cabinet ministers in Tony Blair’s government who think it’s unacceptable for the men to return to the UK.

“It’s very embarrassing for them to know that for the past two years British citizens have been locked up without charge by a country that is the UK government’s greatest ally. The men inside Guantanamo pose a headache to this government.”

It is believed that nine British nationals are being detained in Guantanamo Bay.

European Parliament

Stephen Jakobi, special adviser to the European Parliament on the issue of Guantanamo, says that it is almost certain that the British prisoners will be released in the next few weeks.

“Today I have learnt that around 140 prisoners will be released, I would be astonished if British citizens were not among those being freed”, says Jakobi.

‘The biggest disaster in all of this has been that European countries have been acting bilaterally’

Stephen Jakobi, European Parliament

The European Parliament has been debating the issue of Guantanamo over the past few weeks and Jakobi believes that in order for European countries to ensure that their prisoners are released they need to present a united front.

“The biggest disaster in all of this has been that European countries have been acting bilaterally, which had meant that they have secured far less from the Americans than they could have done if the European countries acted together. For the past two years British and European prisoners have been paying the price of this failed policy.”

However, unlike in the past when Jakobi has criticised the British government’s position, he is supportive of the government current stance.

“I know for a fact that Tony Blair and the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith have been working hard to ensure that the prisoners are released and I’m sure that in a few weeks we will see some action in relation to this.”

Family contacted Habib Rassul, brother of Rhuhel Ahmad, who has been detained in Guantanamo Bay without charge for two years.

“I know nothing about his possible release, my family hasn’t been contacted by the Foreign Office. My brother is innocent he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“For two years now my family have been fighting to find out out why Rhuhel has been locked up, I find it hard to believe that he will be released, we have had many false hopes in the past.”


Shaz Manir, a campaigner working on behalf of the British prisoners says that it is very clear that there is little evidence against the men.

“I have been told that two British citiznes will definitely be released in the next few weeks. I believe them to be Asif Iqbal and Shafiq Rasul. We are very concerned about the health of Asif Iqbal who is suffering from severe depression and mental health problems.”

Manir says that even if the men are returned to the UK they are likely to be held in British prisons and could be detained indefinitely.

“My biggest fear is that these men will be brought back to the UK and bundled into a prison van and taken to maximum security prisons. After two years of being held in Guantanamo none of the men have been charged. They will be made into scapegoats and it’s disgraceful.”

Source : Al Jazeera

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