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Last Updated: Friday, 4 July 2003, 12:04 GMT 13:04 UK
Father's anguish over son's trial
Moazzam Begg
Moazzam Begg was arrested in Pakistan last February

The news that Birmingham man Moazzam Begg is to be among the first to face a military tribunal in the US over his alleged connections with al-Qaeda has come as a shock to his family.

The 35-year-old father-of-four, from the Sparkbrook area of the city, has been held along with 680 other detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since he was arrested by the CIA in Pakistan in February 2002.

US President George W Bush has now ruled Mr Begg and another Briton, Feroz Abbasi from Croydon, will be tried by military tribunals along with four other unnamed Guantanamo inmates.

While Mr Begg's family welcome the fact that after months of incarceration, something is finally happening - they have very grave concerns that he will not get a fair trial.

'Negative move'

Speaking to the BBC, his father Azmat said: "I got a message to phone the Foreign Office last night and I came to know through them that my son has been designated to stand trial with another five persons.

"I was very depressed, very unhappy and very much worried because the judge is from the military, the prosecution is from the military, the jury is from the military and even his solicitor is from the military.

Most probably he has admitted the things which he has not done
Azmat Begg

"Everything is being done by the military so it is not going to be a fair trial."

He added: "Something is happening now which is good news but it is a negative move, its not a positive move. There should be a trial in fair order."

Mr Begg has an unshakeable belief that his son is innocent but is worried he may have given a false confession in exchange for a relief from the harsh conditions he is living under.

"He wrote to me saying he was going to take something drastic which was going to affect the whole family.

Educate people

"Most probably he has admitted the things which he has not done. Someone might have told him he would be given a better place and his family would be able to visit and he would have a more comfortable life."

Azmat Begg
Azmat Begg says he is 100% certain his son is innocent

Mr Begg added: "I am 100% sure that he has not done anything wrong."

"We come from British Indian army people. We have all been army people for generations and some of my family members were prisoners of war in Germany.

"We did not do anything against the British and are most loyal servants of the British."

He said his son, whose youngest child was born after he was arrested, had gone to Pakistan to educate people who had been deprived of modern life and had been "trapped".

"Nobody goes to a battlefield or a place that is not safe if they have a family.

"He thought it was a nice place and he stayed there for some time."

But for now, all the family can do is wait and hope.

    There are seven other Britons in Guantanamo Bay, according to a recent Foreign Office statement. They are:

  • 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.

The BBC's Frank Gardner
"Azmat Begg says his son is no terrorist"

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