I saw Americans kill terror suspects, says Guantanamo Briton

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The Independent Online

One of the four Britons released from Guantanamo Bay last month said he was tortured by the Americans at a separate holding camp and spent many hours trussed like an animal with a bag over his head.

Moazzam Begg, 37, who was released by the Metropolitan Police without charge and reunited with his wife and four children after three years' imprisonment, also accuses his American captors of beating two detainees to death at the Bagram air base near Kabul in Afghanistan. In his first interview since his release, he told Channel 4 News he "witnessed two people get beaten so badly I believe it caused their deaths".

In February 2003, Mr Begg was transferred from Bagram to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. The former law student and bookshop owner from Birmingham joined hundreds of other "unlawful combatants", shackled and dressed in orange jumpsuits, then held without charge, trial or access to lawyers. For much of his detention he was in solitary confinement, often exposed to extreme weather and deprived of basic necessities. Last night he said he was interviewed at Guantanomo by US security officers who asked him to identify the guards in the alleged beatings.

He told Channel 4: "I saw one body actually being carried away and the other one, I wasn't sure whether he had been killed but the photographs the American intelligence officers had brought confirmed this person had been killed."

Mr Begg called his detention at Guantanamo "tortuous" [sic] but made express allegations of torture only about his treatment at Bagram. In one particularly harsh interrogation, he said, he faced two FBI agents who ordered punishments which included being "hog-tied".

Mr Begg described this as "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".

He said he was threatened with being sent to Egypt, "to be tortured, to face electric shocks, to have my fingers broken, to be sexually abused, and the like". Mr Begg admitted visiting training camps in Afghanistan in 1993 and 1998. He said the first was run by the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance.

Mr Begg said he stayed for two weeks and saw people being trained in small-arms. But he made it clear he did no training. He visited a second camp in 1998 near Jalalabad, he said, for a day and a half. Mr Begg claimed it was run by Kurds fighting Saddam Hussein, not by al-Qa'ida.

When the 11 September attacks happened, Mr Begg said he was still in Afghanistan and phoned a friend who told him "there could be imminent attacks on Afghanistan, that they're blaming al-Qa'ida that's based around Kandahar for being responsible". Mr Begg, Feroz Abbasi, 24, Richard Belmar, 25, and Martin Mubanga, 32, were questioned and released by police last month and are staying in safe-houses. Mr Begg was arrested in Pakistan by US security officers who raided his flat in Islamabad.


On being a "threat":

"It's incomprehensible for me to think how they would come to the conclusion that I am a threat to Britain. Britain is my home, I'm as British as anybody else."

On his seizure in Islamabad:

"There was a knock, about 12 o'clock at night. I answered the door ... a gun was put to my head and I was ... made to kneel. A black hood was put on my head, my hands were tied behind my back and my legs were shackled and I was carried into a vehicle ... and driven off. Never got a chance to say goodbye or a word to my wife or my children."

On his release:

"A major came along and he said I am here to inform you that the American government has decided to release you to the British authorities and any supposed charges have been dropped. Simple as that. Of course I was in a state of utter disbelief."

On coming back:

"I don't think I can ever be back to normality and I'm still trying to work out what normality is. But what's kept me going is my faith and the thoughts of my children."