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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 January 2007, 04:13 GMT
Campaigning 'is key' after Guantanamo
By Sarah Portlock
BBC News

Moazzam Begg
Moazzam Begg was held for nearly two years at Guantanamo Bay
Former detainee Moazzam Begg is amongst demonstrators outside the US Embassy in London calling for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay military prison.

Since his release two years ago the Birmingham man has spent his time campaigning for its closure and supporting the families of detainees.

It is something he has found difficult as, since his return, he says he has found it hard to be in large crowds and to talk about his experiences.

But, of his campaign to close the detention centre, he said: "As long as Guantanamo Bay is there it gives me a job to do - a sense of purpose."

Mr Begg was arrested in Afghanistan in February 2002.

Many detainees are not able to have a voice, whereas I am able to get an audience
Former detainee Moazzam Begg

He was held at the Bagram air base, where he claims to have been tortured and witnessed two deaths, before being sent to Guantanamo Bay in early 2003.

There he spent two years mainly in a cage measuring 6ft by 8ft (1.8m by 2.4m) in which, he says, he could only take three steps. Those years were mainly spent in isolation.

Paradoxically, he says, Guantanamo was not as bad as other detention centres.

"People are held for a significant amount of time in those places," he says.

Family life

"Guantanamo is a final destination in a sense, but it was the best of the prisons"

Readjusting to his life back home has been difficult. His wife had just announced she was pregnant with their fourth child when he was arrested so he arrived home to a changed family.

Guantanamo Bay
The first detainees arrived at Camp X-ray on 11 January 2002

"I had a child I had never seen," he said.

"To readjust was difficult for us all. For my family, having a new person in the house was hard.

"I think it has made us all stronger.

"But I find it very difficult to be in large crowds now, which is hard when I am speaking to large numbers of people. I feel more of a need to be alone."

His days are now filled working as a spokesman for the campaign group CagePrisoners, an organisation which campaigns for the release of all people held without trial, and by giving lectures and speeches around the country.

He also works closely with Amnesty International.

'Justice prevail'

"I don't feel I have much of a choice," he said.

"Many detainees are not able to have a voice, whereas I am able to get an audience.

"I appreciate my work, but it is not something I like doing. It is very draining, very depressing.

"You don't know what to say to people who come to you for help, you cannot guarantee them anything.

"What I can say to them, is I am living proof that people will be released and in the end justice will prevail."


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