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Last Updated: Sunday, 6 July, 2003, 05:42 GMT 06:42 UK
'Send Britons home,' says Straw
Moazzam Begg
Moazzam Begg was arrested in Pakistan last February
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is reportedly to call for two British al-Qaeda suspects facing a secret US military tribunal in Cuba to return to be repatriated.

Mr Straw will urge United States Secretary of State Colin Powell to allow the pair to return to Britain for trial "under normal judicial process", according to the Observer.

If convicted by tribunal at the Guantanamo Bay military base, Moazzam Begg, 35, from Birmingham, and Feroz Abbasi, 23, from London, could be sentenced to death.

The two men are among six people on a list of al-Qaeda suspects who could face secret trials.

But Mr Straw and Home Secretary David Blunkett are to make it clear to the US authorities the UK Government will not condone capital punishment, the paper says.

On Friday the base's chief defence lawyer, Colonel Will Gunn, told BBC Two's Newsnight he too had concerns about the possibility of a death penalty but had "staff who were going to make use of all the resources to provide the very best possible defence".

Feroz Abbasi
Feroz Abbasi, is from Croydon, in London

But the UK Foreign Office told the Sunday Times it had "strong reservations about the military commissions".

Washington officials have ruled the Britons' defence lawyers must be American and must waive their right of confidentiality during discussions with their clients - opening the door to secret surveillance techniques, including phone taps, said the paper.

Foreign Office Minister Lady Symons has said the government would launch "vigorous" discussions with Washington over the tribunals.

She told BBC News it would be preferable for the Britons to face justice in the UK.

And the government would fight any attempt to impose the death penalty.

Human rights campaigners and relatives of the Britons have condemned plans for a military tribunal.

Mr Begg's father Azmat said he feared his son, a father-of-four, who was arrested by the CIA in Pakistan in February 2002, would not get a fair trial.

Mr Abbasi was said to have been captured in Kunduz, Afghanistan, in late 2001.

Pentagon officials say all six suspects are believed to be either members of the al-Qaeda terrorist network or have other terrorist involvement such as training or fund-raising.

    There are seven other Britons in Guantanamo Bay, according to the Foreign Office:

  • Shafiq Rasul, 24, of Tipton, West Midlands
  • Asif Iqbal, 20, also of Tipton
  • Ruhal Ahmed, 20, also of Tipton
  • Martin Mubanga, 29, from north London
  • Jamal Udeen, 35, from Manchester
  • Richard Belmar, 23, from London
  • Tarek Dergoul, 24, from east London.

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