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Moazzam Begg interview: 'Two people were beaten to death'

Channel 4 News Interview
February 24, 2005

Former Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg, freed last month after nearly three years in captivity, has accused his American captors of torturing him and other detainees arrested in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Mr Begg, in his first broadcast interview since his release, has told Channel 4 News that he "witnessed two people get beaten so badly that I believe it caused their deaths"

The deaths occurred at Bagram in Afghanistan, where Mr Begg was held before being transported to Guantanamo Bay in February 2003. He says he was subsequently asked to identify the perpetrators when investigators from American intelligence interviewed him in Guantanamo.

Questions posed by Jon Snow are marked with a Q. Use of any of the extracts must be credited to Channel 4 news.

MOAZZAM BEGG: I witnessed two people get beaten so badly that I believe it caused their deaths. And one of those deaths was later investigated and those investigators turned up to Guantanamo Bay and asked me if I would be willing to point out the perpetrators of that, those beatings, of what I witnessed.

Q: But you are convinced two, two of your fellow inmates, effectively were killed by the guards.

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

Mr Begg claims he was tortured himself at Bagram, though not in Guantanamo.

Q: People have talked about torture in Guantanamo, would you say you had been tortured?

BEGG: I would say the conditions were torturous, but myself I don't think I was, I was tortured in Guantanamo.

Q: Would you say you were tortured in Bagram?

BEGG: Yes. Yes. A particularly harsh interrogation took place in May, in which I faced two members of the FBI, one CIA, one major, and one other unknown chap, and I believe it's those, amongst them that date, particularly the FBI and the CIA, which had ordered my punishment or harsh treatment, which included me being hog-tied, left in a room with a bag put over my head, even though I suffered from asthma.

Q: What does hog-tied mean?

BEGG: It means 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. And, after which they threatened to have me sent to Egypt, to be tortured, to face electric shocks, to have my fingers broken, to be sexually abused, and, and the like.

Born in Birmingham with dual Pakistani nationality, it was on a family holiday there that the process of a political awakening begins in 1993. Moazzam Begg went across the border to near the city of Khost in Afghanistan in 1993 - there he says he met various groups of nationalist and Islamic rebels - many backed by America - fighting against the occupying Soviet forces.

The Guantanamo detainee admits visiting two training camps in Afghanistan in 1993 and 1998. He says the first, in 1993, was run by the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. Mr Begg says he stayed there for two weeks. People at the camp were being trained in small arms, including, he thinks, Kalashnikovs and small hand guns. Mr Begg says he didn't train himself.

He visited a second camp in 1998 near Jalalabad, he says, for a day and a half. Mr Begg claims it was run by Kurds who had been fighting against Saddam Hussein, not by Al Qaeda.

He says he was in Afghanistan when the 9/11 attacks happened.

BEGG: I'd, a friend of mine, I'd phoned him and he told me that there could be imminent attacks on Afghanistan, that they're blaming al-Qaeda that's based in around Kandahar for being responsible. And I remember saying to him quite clearly that I hope that the perpetrators of 9/11 are brought to justice but I really hope that they don't bring everybody else and try to blame everybody else for the responsibility of this attack. You know it's a, I don't believe in any attacks against any civilians around the world, wherever they are, it's nothing I've been brought up to believe, nothing that I believe now, whether it's aeroplanes flying into buildings or whether it's bombs being dropped from 30,000 feet, indiscriminately bombing women and children or others that are not involved.

Moazzam Begg admits he'd visited Bosnia in the early 1990s and was 'terribly affected by some of the stories that I'd heard of the atrocities taking place there'. But he denies he took up arms there, although he says he was tempted.

BEGG: I'd thought about it but to take up arms against some ... the, the war in Bosnia had started and finished, and what was taking place in Chechnya I supported foreign fighters and through financial support but I never took up arms myself.

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