worse than terrorism

  1. 3,439 Posts.
    Sat rday July 19, 2003
    The Guardian

    Nusaba Begg was barely a year old when the twin towers in New York were attacked on September 11 2001: a little girl from Birmingham on a big adventure in Afghanistan with her family. She is nearly three now and back home, but her father, Moazzam Begg, is in Camp Delta, held by the Americans as part of their war on terror. Eighteen months ago, Pakistani security forces seized the 35-year-old, bundling him into a car boot, and handed him over to US authorities. He was taken to an airbase in Bagram, Afghanistan, where he was held for a year in a cell deprived of natural light. Now he is a prisoner of the US at Guantanamo Bay.
    Nusaba cannot remember what her father looks like. "When she sees a man with a beard about the same age as her father, she points and says, 'He's my dad,' " says her grandfather, Azmat Begg. "When the man walks away, she gets sad."

    Moazzam Begg - or detainee JJEEH#00558 to his captors - is described by his family as a deeply religious man and devoted father, though his sole contact with his children is now through letters he sends home via the Red Cross. In one, he urges them to work on their English spelling. In another, he asks his family to video his youngest child, born a few months after he was seized and whom he has never seen. Replying to a message from his nephews - who know only that he is "away" - he wrote gently, "I don't know when I am coming home and am afraid 'souvenirs' will be quite hard to bring back."

    His family say that Moazzam used to run an Islamic book and video store in Birmingham. In the spring of 2001, he and his family left for Afghanistan, where Moazzam worked on a literacy project and another scheme to provide villages with a water supply. When, after the September 11 attacks, the US bombed Afghanistan in early October, Begg took his wife and three children to Islamabad in Pakistan for safety. It was there in February 2002 that he was picked up by Pakistani security forces. In the car driving him away, locked inside the boot, he was able to make a brief mobile phone call to his father telling him of his arrest.

    Azmat Begg, a retired bank manager and member of the Liberal Democrats, does not recognise the US description of his son as a fundamentalist terrorist; he says Moazzam went to a Jewish school, and still has Jewish friends. Furthermore, it is unlikely that someone intending to be an al-Qaida operative would take a family of small children with him.
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