Whilst listening to the radio news today, I heard Moazzam Begg claim that he didn’t “receive a million pounds” from the British government in the settlement concerning his alleged torture in Guantanamo Bay. The rights and wrongs of the issue will never be known because the whole process has been shrouded by the government and those compensated in an attempt to whitewash the matter. The government wanted to avoid the enormous cost of a lengthy and complex court case and the terms of the settlement stipulated that it would remain confidential – something wanted by both the men and ministers. This suits the former detainees, as they have been handed hundreds of thousands, if not millions of pounds, without any admission of wrongdoing on their part, while the government has obstructed and buried any contemporary discussion of the matter.
We shall never know if the government was involved in torture and neither will we know the evidence against these men, nor how many millions were paid out by our government to compensate them. However, Moazam Begg’s adult life is a classic example of ‘smoke and mirrors’, wherein he has had links with known terrorists such as Anwar al-Awlaki and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab but denies any criminal intent or matter. He travelled to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bosnia and attempted to travel to Chechnya, and fully acknowledges giving financial support for Muslim combatants, but insists that he never took a combat role himself.
However, in 2000 Moazzam Begg was allegedly arrested under British anti-terrorism laws during a raid on the Maktabah al-Ansar Islamic bookshop in Birmingham, which he had founded. The Police retrieved encrypted files from his computer and ordered Moazzam Begg to open them, but he refused and a judge ruled in his favour. Begg was released, incredibly, without charge. From 1st October 2007 the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) includes provisions for the decryption requirements from offenders and, in the case of anti-terrorism laws, the maximum punishment is five years in prison. As it is now a crime to refuse to turn a decryption key over to the police, can this case not be reopened and looked at so that we might at least know the truth about what Mr. Begg was up to that time?