The Post last week afforded space to Moazzam Begg to pen an Outlook commentary asserting that the killing of Osama bin Laden was “extrajudicial.” The opinion piece contains a number of inflammatory allegations, including the claims that he was abused as a detainee by the U.S. government. He ends on an admiring note: “The vast majority of Muslims did not agree with bin Laden’s targeting of civilians. Yet many will remember him as the man who made the United States tremble — prompting it to unleash a war on terror in Muslim lands and thus strengthen al-Qaeda as a global idea, instead of an organization whose numbers could once be counted.”
Begg is identified as “a British citizen, [who] was never charged by the United States and was released from Guantanamo by order of President George W. Bush in 2005. He is the author of ‘Enemy Combatant: A British Muslim’s Journey to Guantanamo and Back,’ and the director of the human rights group Cageprisoners.”
But does that give Post readers a complete and accurate picture of who this man is and the facts concerning his association with an organization described as a “human rights group”?
After reading a number of pieces taking issue with the decision to print this piece, I have to conclude that the vast majority of readers would have no idea, in fact no an inaccurate idea, about Begg.
Let’s begin with the so-called human rights group Cageprisoners. Michael Weiss in the Daily Telegraph explains:
Cageprisoners is a UK-based “human rights” group that claims, according to its website, to “raise awareness of the plight of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and other detainees held as part of the War on Terror.” . . . Begg’s colleague, Asim Qureshi (who once told a Hizb ut-Tahrir rally in London that the “example” lies with jihadists in Chechnya, Iraq, Palestine, Kashmir and Afghanistan) has also adorned bin Laden with a gauzy posthumous halo. The al-Qaeda leader “served his cause”, we find Qureshi eulogising on the Cageprisoners website. “So we need to ask ourselves, is Osama bin Laden really dead or are has [sic] the shoot to kill policy merely created the grounds for spawning thousands more bin Ladens ready to take his mantle?”
It would appear that Cageprisoners is backing the latter, as it has recently posted this sick contribution to the debate about bin Laden’s death in Abbottabad: “BREAKING NEWS: BARACK OBAMA IS DEAD”.
I quote from the Islamist’s version of an Onion parody, authored by Cageprisoners member Fahad Ansari:
American War Criminal Barack Obama has been killed by Pakistani security forces in the UK, Prime Minister Hasan Abdullah of Pakistan has said.
The faux news story is accompanied by a bloody picture of an assassinated President Obama.
Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, adds some further perspective Cageprisoners. He writes:
As Alexander Hitchens of the Centre for Social Cohesion in the UK has thoroughly documented (PDF) previously, Begg and Cageprisoners have a longstanding relationship with al Qaeda cleric Anwar al Awlaki. Cageprisoners lobbied to free Awlaki from Yemeni custody after he was detained in 2006, broadcast a live message from Awlaki during a fundraising event, reproduced Awlaki’s propaganda on its web site, and published friendly interviews with him. Begg conducted these interviews with fawning questions for the al Qaeda imam. The effect of Cageprisoners’ work was to spread Awlaki’s hateful and dangerous message in the UK — which Awlaki has repeatedly targeted as a recruiting ground.
As for his tale of mistreatment, which was at the core of his Post piece, Joscelyn says that, according to all the available data, it is untrue:
The Officer of the Inspector General at the DOJ investigated Begg’s claims of abuse at Guantanamo and found no evidence to back up his allegations. You can download a PDF copy of the OIG’s report here. Begg has tried to use fictitious torture claims to explain away a damning confession he signed while held at Guantanamo. The confession was taken by FBI agents and criminal investigators — not the government-types who used coercive measures to extract intelligence from a small subset of detainees.
And it turns out the confession was anything but coerced. The OIG’s report reads (p. 268): “Many of the witnesses interviewed by the Army investigators said that Begg cooperated with military interrogators by assisting with translations, that Begg received comforts such as reading and writing materials, and that Begg never complained about mistreatment while he was at Bagram.”
Actually, the confession wasn’t phony either: “The OIG also noted that Begg’s confession ‘itself with the additions and deletions initialed by Begg support its voluntariness.’ In other words, Begg modified his confession so that it was more accurate, and then initialed his changes so that it was clear Begg himself made the modifications.”
Without this context (and more supplied by Weiss and Joscelyn) I imagine a great number of readers came away with a false understanding of who Begg really is. Thankfully, we now have a more complete picture of a Post contributor whose real story and actual “human rights” record is not in the least sympathetic.