Ex-Guantanamo detainee recalls custody ordeal


A former Guantanamo Bay detainee today described being stripped, punched, humiliated, held at gunpoint and forced to watch two people being beaten to death while in American custody.

Moazzam Begg, 43, from Birmingham, spent two years at the notorious detention centre after being transferred from Bagram facility in Afghanistan. He was later released without charge.

Speaking as fellow former detainees prepare to mark the 10-year anniversary of the first prisoners arriving at the naval base, Mr Begg described the knock on the door he heard on the night of January 31, 2002 while living in Pakistan where he was building a school.

"The men stormed in and put a gun to my head, they put my hands behind my back, put a hood over my head and took me in a vehicle. When the hood was lifted I saw they were Americans. They said I would be going to Guantanamo Bay and they were right."

Describing his ordeal whilst in custody, Mr Begg said the worst treatment was at Bagram.

"We were stripped, punched, kicked, humiliated, shaved, thrown into a small converted barn while guns were constantly pointed at our heads.

"Watching the abuse of other people (was the worst), I saw two people beaten to death, one man was subjected to the sounds of a woman he thought might be his wife being tortured in the room next door.

"That is what America had to offer me and I have never been to America."

He said it was impossible to imagine what it was like for Londoner Shaker Aamer, who has been imprisoned at Guantanamo since February 2002 after he was captured by coalition forces during the invasion of Afghanistan.

Mr Begg said: "It is suffice to say if it is not over for us who are free, then what can it be like for those who are really, physically still there?"

He added Mr Aamer's children did not know who he was anymore and that he had never met his youngest child, who was born on the day he arrived at the base.

Mr Begg said he would never have imagined that 10 years later his ordeal would still be such a huge part of his life.

"The name Guantanamo will be associated with me, this place across the Atlantic. I've never been to America, but America has been to me. It has shaped the person I am today."

He added: "This is a story about this country, that was complicit in torturing its own citizens. It was colluding in what happened to us."

Human rights charity Reprieve and awareness group CagePrisoners, where Mr Begg is now director, are marking tomorrow's milestone with the launch of an interactive online timeline that organisers say will include everything that has happened at the base over the past decade.

They hope La Tansa, which means "never forget" in Arabic, will help people maintain awareness about the plight of the 171 prisoners that remain at the base.


Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Lizards, such as Iguanas (pictured), have a unique pattern of tissue growth
Anna Nicole Smith died of an accidental overdose in 2007
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tvReview: Bread-making skills of the Bake Off hopefuls put to the test
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Digital Project Manager/BA

£300 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: An experienced Digital/Ecommerc...

Creative Content Executive (writer, social media, website)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...

Test Lead (C#, Java, HTML, SQL) Kingston Finance

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A Global Financial Service Organi...

Access/Teradata Developer, Banking, Bristol £400pd

£375 - £400 per day: Orgtel: Access / Teradata Developer - Banking - Bristol -...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home