Joy and despair: a tale of two fathers

'They've treated my son like an animal. But he's coming home'
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The Independent Online

Rhuhel Ahmed: Released after 790 days held in Guantanamo Bay

After two years of setbacks and dashed hopes Riasoth Ahmed could hardly contain his joy last night - his son was finally returning home.

"He is a young boy and has his whole life ahead of him," Mr Ahmed said.

His son, Rhuhel Ahmed, was one of five Britons held without trial for two years at Guantanamo Bay. Last night the men were back on British soil after their release from the American base in Cuba.

As detectives from Scotland Yard's Anti-Terrorist Branch questioned Rhuhel, 22, his father prepared to welcome him back to their small terraced home on the Park estate in Tipton, in the West Midlands.

He said that he first heard the news of his son's release when it was confirmed to him by a community liaison officer. "The police called me to say they were on their way home and that they would send someone round to my house."

But Mr Ahmed said that he had no idea what effect the high-security detention would have had on his son. "When you can't see him, you can't tell how he will feel, how he will be," he said. The family have insisted that Rhuhel, who is the third of six children, went to Pakistan for a wedding in 2001.

There he joined his two friends Shafiq Rasul, 26, and Asif Iqbal, 22, fellow pupils at Alexandra High School, Tipton.

According to his family, he was in Karachi on the day the Americans started bombing Afghanistan. It was the last time his father spoke to him.

Later intelligence gathered from Guantanamo Bay suggested that the three friends may well have found themselves in Afghanistan at the end of 2001. It was claimed that Rhuhel was being questioned by the United States military in the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, Afghanistan.

As the news began to sink in of his son's release, Mr Ahmed said that there was also bitterness that he had not been freed earlier. "They have treated my son like an animal. He has been held in a cage in Cuba for two years without any charge and with no access to a lawyer. And now they are bringing him home, the Foreign Office has told me that he will be held by British police on his return and questioned."

He added: "He has been interrogated for two years. Surely they have got all of the answers they want by now."

Paul Quigley, a friend of Rhuhel's family, said last night on behalf of the family: "The family believe that if there were any evidence that Rhuhel had done anything wrong, the Americans would already have used it against him."

'My son is helpless. I do not ask for mercy, I ask for justice'

Moazzam Begg: Still in Guantanamo Bay, facing a military tribunal

For Azmat Begg the long-awaited homecoming of the five Britons was of no comfort. His son, Moazzam Begg, is among four Britons who remain in custody at Guantanamo Bay where he awaits trial by a military commission.

As the families of the five released prisoners celebrated, the Begg family's mood could not have been more different. Mr Begg was in Washington as part of his tireless campaign to urge President George Bush to end his son's two-year ordeal.

As he delivered a letter to the White House, Mr Begg said: "We are not against Americans or the English, we are human."

He said that his son, a former law student, had been in Afghanistan as an aid worker, digging wells in remote villages. He had moved to Islamabad, Pakistan, with his wife and children, when he was arrested.

He wrote: "Mr President, I do not plead for mercy, my son has not been charged with any crime. I ask for justice. Before mercy comes justice, and my son has been denied justice. Before the law you and I stand equal but in Guantanamo Bay my son is helpless and powerless to prove his innocence."

As he spoke, Mr Begg clutched a letter from his son, which read: "I do not know what crime I am supposed to have committed for which not only I but my wife and children continuously suffer. As a result I am in a state of depression and beginning to lose the fight against depression and hopelessness."

This sense of desperation was evident yesterday at the Begg family home in Birmingham. Moazzam's wife, Sally, 33, said that her husband was a gentle man who doted on his children. Moazzam, 36, has never seen his youngest child, Ibrahim, aged one, who was born shortly after Mrs Begg returned to Britain

"George Bush says these were bad men arrested with Kalashnikovs in their hands, on the battlefield. Moazzam was asleep in Pakistan, in bed with me, with the children asleep. If he did something wrong, we must have too," she said. "Perhaps they should arrest us all."

The Beggs had left Birmingham for Afghanistan in June 2001. Then the American bombardment started and the family fled to Pakistan. It was while Moazzam was waiting in Islamabad to return to teaching that he was arrested, taken to an American-controlled airbase, then Guantanamo Bay. His family say his letters home show that he has been tortured and kept in solitary confinement. They fear he may have made a false confession. Now they have no option but to await news of his fate.