My nightmare of torture and assault, by Briton held in Guantanamo

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The Independent Online

One of the four Britons freed from Guantanamo Bay last week has alleged being tortured, nearly suffocated and repeatedly assaulted in American detention, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

One of the four Britons freed from Guantanamo Bay last week has alleged being tortured, nearly suffocated and repeatedly assaulted in American detention, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

In the first detailed account to emerge since their release, Moazzam Begg, 35, from Birmingham, has accused his US captors of threatening his family, killing fellow detainees, and interrogating him more than 250 times. His 25-page testimony was written in solitary confinement at Guantanamo Bay last year for an American tribunal hearing.

It details, for the first time, why he visited Islamist training camps in Afghanistan, and describes the night in 2002 when he was captured in Pakistan by US agents.

Mr Begg claims that while he was held by the Americans at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan in 2002, he was "dragged into an isolation room, my hands shackled from behind to my ankles, and a suffocating hood placed over my head. I was struck about the head several times, then left in that manner on the floor for several hours, only to be interrogated again."

Mr Begg, who used to run an Islamic bookshop in Birmingham, is recuperating in a safe house with his family after arriving back in the UK on an RAF jet last Tuesday with fellow detainees Feroz Abbasi, 24, Richard Belmar, 25, and Martin Mubanga, 32, all from London. All four men were held by anti-terrorism police for questioning for nearly 24 hours before being released without charge.

However, speculation is increasing that the Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, will seek court orders to place the men under strict controls under new emergency anti-terrorism powers that he is now seeking. Mr Clarke said last week he wants the power to put suspected terrorists and their immediate families under house arrest, or to impose very strict bail-style controls on their movements and behaviour.

The Government insists these powers are chiefly in response to the ruling last month by nine Law Lords that the jailing of 11 foreign men without trial, including the radical Islamic cleric Abu Qatada, was illegal. Sources in the US administration suggested that the new measures were part of the guarantees given by Britain before the four detainees were leased from Guantanamo Bay. The Pentagon insisted last week that the four continue to pose a "significant threat", and security sources in Britain are making similar claims about the 11 men detained in Belmarsh prison and other jails.

Lawyers for the four ex-Guantanamo detainees now suspect that they all face court orders that could force them to live under strict bail conditions, including restrictions on their movements and use of computers, and the possible surrender of their passports.

Last night, Gareth Peirce, the lawyer for Mr Begg and Mr Belmar, said: "It's pretty obvious that the timing of their release with Mr Clarke's announcement is not coincidental. It's a complete police state if all these powers come in."

In his testimony, Mr Begg alleges that he was "coerced" into signing a false confession at Guantanamo Bay on 13 February 2003 by the same US interrogators who had allegedly tortured him at Bagram airbase. He had signed the confession, which claimed that he was a member of al-Qa'ida, with "memories fresh [with] the threats of summary trials, life imprisonment and execution". He added: "They reiterated the previous threats."

In further passages of his diary, Mr Begg alleges that he saw US interrogators using a series of illegal practices to extract confessions from detainees. At Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, he claims, interrogators used "sleep deprivation; racial and religious taunts; being chained to a door for hours - with a suffocating plastic sandbag as a hood; arm twisting and forced bowing; and several beatings."