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Sunday, 27 January, 2002, 22:50 GMT
Family want return of Camp X-Ray Briton
Shafiq Rasool's brothers Habib and Murtza
Habib and Murtza Rasool last spoke to their brother on 24 December
The family of one of the Britons being held at Camp X-Ray on suspicion of fighting in Afghanistan for the Taleban or al-Qaeda have demanded he is returned to Britain.

The brothers of Shafiq Rasool, a 24-year-old law student, said it was "very unlikely" he was guilty and that he had condemned the September 11 terrorist attacks.

They said their disabled mother is "in shock and mourning" after being told by the Foreign Office that her "westernised" son is being held at the maximum security prison at the US navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

If the British authorities want to question him they can do that in this country rather than leave him over there

Rasool family lawyer

He and a second man, Asif Iqbal, 20, were captured in Afghanistan and are alleged to belong to a hardline Islamic group based in the small West Midlands town of Tipton. The pair live within a few streets of one another.

The presence of a third Briton, Feroz Abbasi, 22, from Croydon, south London, at Camp X-Ray was confirmed last week.

The family's reaction came shortly before Downing Street indicated that Prime Minister Tony Blair did not believe the Guantanamo detainees should be treated as prisoners of war.

Family holiday

Mr Rasool's 32-year-old brother Murtza said the family had last spoken to him on 24 December.

They told him that his young nephew had died and asked him to come home from Pakistan, where he had gone for a Microsoft computer course in October.

Speaking of the family's shock at allegations he was fighting in Afghanistan he said: "First, he could have been brainwashed and taken over there to fight.

"Second thing is he could have gone over there to aid the women and the children."
 Feroz Abbasi
Briton Feroz Abbasi is also among the prisoners

Thirty-year-old brother Habib said the family were worried about Shafiq's treatment in Cuba.

He said: "We have seen pictures of people being shackled and they say he is not being punished, but we have only been told that by the Foreign Office.

"What we don't know personally is that he is in good health."

Murtza said his youngest brother was so westernised that he rarely bothered going to the Mosque and added: "We want him to be brought back to this country as soon as possible."


Family lawyer Parvez Akther said: "The family want the British Government to bring Shafiq back to this country, so at least the family can speak to him.

"If the British authorities want to question him they can do that in this country rather than leave him over there."

The family MP, Adrian Bailey, said: "They have stressed that they are moderate Muslims and their views are not the views of al-Qaeda."

The interrogation of these individuals has to continue

Tony Blair's spokesman

He said the family were angry at reports that their home was being used as a fundamentalist cell, and denied his constituency was a "hotbed for Islamic extremism".

"Local community leaders... are as mystified and puzzled as I am as to why two people from a long-established Muslim community should be part of al-Qaeda."

The Foreign Office says it has spoken to all the Britons being held and they have no complaints about how they are being treated.


On Sunday US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld arrived for an inspection tour of the camp, which has been the subject of international criticism.

Mr Rumsfeld's trip comes as the prime minister's official spokesman indicated Mr Blair was not in favour of classifying the detainees as prisoners of war, which would give them certain rights under the Geneva Convention.

"As the US has said the interrogation of these individuals has to continue," the spokesman said.

The BBC's Allan Little
"The family say they are distraught"
The BBC's Emma Howard
"Tipton is in shock"
Adrian Bailey, Labour MP for West Bromwich West
"They are totally unrepresentative of the local Muslim community"
See also:

21 Jan 02 | UK Politics
From student to terror suspect
27 Jan 02 | England
Terror suspect family 'baffled'
27 Jan 02 | Americas
No POW rights for Cuba prisoners
21 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Captive Britons have 'no complaints'
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