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Monday, 28 January, 2002, 15:51 GMT
Appeal for return of captive Briton
Shafiq Rasul
Family say Shafiq Rasul is keener on fashion than religion
The family of one of three Britons being held by the US military as a Taleban or al-Qaeda suspect has demanded his return to Britain.

The brothers of Shafiq Rasul, a 24-year-old law student, said it was "very unlikely" he was guilty of fighting in Afghanistan.

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

Rasul family lawyer

Mr Rasul and a second Briton at Camp X-Ray, Asif Iqbal, 20, are accused of belonging to a hardline Islamic group based in Tipton in the West Midlands.

The Foreign Office has also confirmed that another man, believed to be from the West Midlands is being held by US Forces in Afghanistan. Ruhal Ahmed is being detained in Kandahar.

It is not known whether he will be transferred to Guantanamo Bay base in Cuba, where Mr Rasul and Mr Iqbal are being held.

Click here to see a map of UK terrorism links

The Rasul family have raised concerns about the conditions in the camp.

But Prime Minister Tony Blair and US leaders have again argued against calls to give them prisoner of war status.

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

The family of Mr Iqbal has refused to comment.

Shafiq Rasul's brothers Habib and Murtza said their disabled mother was "in shock and mourning" after being told by the Foreign Office that her "westernised" son was among the captives.

 Feroz Abbasi
Briton Feroz Abbasi is also among the prisoners
He had apparently travelled to Pakistan for a Microsoft computer course in October.

Murtza, 32, 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.

Speaking of the family's shock at allegations 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."

The family was very much annoyed with him for not showing his face now and then at the mosque

Mushtaq Ahmed
Rasul family friend
Habib, 30, said the family were worried about Shafiq's treatment in Cuba after seeing news pictures of the shackled captives.

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

Murtza said his youngest brother was so westernised that he rarely bothered going to the mosque.

Habib described him as a "very shy person" and a "Black Country lad" who was "more into football and his designer clothes... Gucci, Armani. It's ridiculous to say he would fight for the Taleban and al-Qaeda."

Family friend Mushtaq Ahmed added: "He was not politically motivated and the family was very much annoyed with him for not showing his face now and then at the mosque. He's never seen a gun in his life."

Student 'scrapes'

Ian Binnie, headteacher at the former school of Mr Rasul and Mr Iqbal in Tipton, said that as students they had "occasional scrapes but nothing serious".

"There was obviously no indication at the time of any extreme fundamentalist views," he said.

Mr Binnie added: "What is also clear is that their families were the usual sound Asian Tiptons."

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."

He told the BBC Breakfast programme Shafiq had never been involved in any kind of political or Islamic activity.

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

Adrian Bailey MP
"It is very difficult to put together what he was doing there and it was a massive surprise to the family to find out he was in Afghanistan," he said.

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

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".

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

Click here to return.

The BBC's Emma Howard
"Questions are being asked about this quiet local suburb"
Brothers Habib and Murtza Rasul
"We want our brother back"
Rasul family lawyer, Parvez Akthar
"He has never been involved in any kind of political or Islamic activities"
Adrian Bailey, Labour MP for West Bromwich West
"They are totally unrepresentative of the local Muslim community"
See also:

28 Jan 02 | England
Tipton in shock
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'
21 Jan 02 | UK Politics
From student to terror suspect
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