[A-List] Witness to US torture
sherrynstan at igc.org
Sun Dec 29 09:54:40 MST 2002
[Today, the US corporate press is reporting the adamant denial by the US
military that it has in any way participated in or condoned torture.
Something is obviously stinging them here, so it is apparently time to keep
up the pressure. Of course, they are lying through their teeth. A sure
fire way to tell when a military PAO is lying is to see if his lips are
moving. Read on. -SG]
Briton tells of ordeal in Bush's torture jail
Al-Qaeda suspect 'is starved of food and sleep' at army base where two have
Paul Harris and Burhan Wazir
Sunday December 29, 2002
The letter contained only hints of what Moazzam Begg's interrogators may
have done to him. He wrote of hunger and being kept awake by bright lights.
'I still don't know what will happen with me,' he lamented to his wife back
home in Birmingham [England, not Alabama -SG].
Begg, 35, was writing from Bagram military base just outside Kabul. He is
the only British prisoner inside a cluster of metal shipping containers at
the heart of the United States army part of the base, which serves as a
'jail' for al-Qaeda suspects.
Now the camp is at the centre of a furious row over US behaviour in the war
on terror. Evidence is growing that prisoners inside the containers are
being tortured by American soldiers and CIA agents. Begg may have written
of more damaging details of his own treatment, but many of his previous
letters were never delivered.
It appears the US soldiers at Bagram have much to hide. Human rights groups
are calling for an inquiry into the methods used by American interrogators
at Bagram and other bases in Afghanistan. US officials have admitted that
suspects captured in the region are 'softened up' on their way to detention
by brutal beatings from US military police and special forces soldiers.
They are confined to tiny rooms, blindfolded and thrown into walls. They
are tied up in painful positions, subjected to loud noises and deprived of
sleep by having lights shone on them all day and night. Sometimes they are
forced to stand for long periods
in black hoods or wearing goggles which have been spray-painted so as to
render them blind.
The aim is to disorientate and confuse the suspects, as they face a barrage
of questions about their activities in Afghanistan and elsewhere. It is
believed that some, who had battle wounds when captured, are denied
painkillers as a further way of coaxing information from them. 'Pain
control is a very subjective thing,' one US official said, deadpan, to the
Washington Post last week.
Those who do not crack, or perhaps have nothing to tell, are often handed
over to foreign intelligence services such as those of Morocco or Saudi
Arabia, where less sophisticated and bloodier torture techniques are
Critics point out that the US forces have picked up innocent men before. In
October three Afghan men were released without charge after they had been
held for a year at the American base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. They were
given $500 compensation between them.
So far the US has admitted that two men held at Bagram have died in
custody - one from a heart attack and the other from a pulmonary embolism,
or blood clot on the lung. A criminal investigation [conducted by the
military of itself -SG] is now under way, but no reason has been given of
what caused the men's injuries. [And the military will exonerate
In the case of Begg, who grew up in the Moseley area of Birmingham, the
Americans have been equally silent. Foreign Office officials admit that
after 11 months of asking they have still not been able to see him to check
on his health. 'We are still pressing the Americans, but as yet we have not
been allowed access,' said a spokesman.
Begg has not seen a lawyer, a Red Cross official or any member of his
family either since he was arrested in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad
Just why the Briton was sought by the Americans is also a mystery. But they
wanted him badly. When the US bombing began in November 2001, Begg closed
down the school he had opened in Kabul and moved to Pakistan. It was there
that he was arrested, bundled into a car and smuggled back over the border
into Afghanistan, first to Kandahar and then to Bagram.
The last time his father, Azmat Begg, heard Moazzam's voice was in a call
from a mobile phone as his son lay in the boot of his captors' vehicle.
After a few panicky moments the call suddenly ended. Despite being a devout
Muslim, Moazzam Begg attended a Jewish primary school in the West Midlands.
He studied law at a Birmingham college but dropped out in 1994 to join a
charity delivering aid to Muslims in Bosnia.
His family portray him as a family man who worked as a translator and took
his wife and three young children with him to Afghanistan.
'I am worried like a father who would worry about his son,' said Azmat
Begg, 64. 'He is a lovely and bright boy and obedient. He never tells lies
and always does the right thing. He told me he wanted to start a school in
Afghanistan to improve the literacy rates there.'
Certainly his letter to his wife showed a man anguished about his family.
'The most difficult thing in my life is being away from you and the kids,'
However, security sources point to raids on Begg's British home by
anti-terrorist police. The first was several years ago and the second was
carried out last summer, when a computer, five floppy disks and two CD-roms
were taken. Neither raid resulted in any charges.
But human rights activists say suspects at Bagram - whether innocent or
guilty - should not be tortured. This, they say, undermines the war on
'How can the US descend to the level of using terror in the war on terror?
What sort of victory is that? This is illegal and it is appalling,' said
Jamie Felner, a US director of Human Rights Watch.
Amnesty International has also condemned the treatment of detainees such as
Begg. 'The US must ensure that its actions in relation to those in custody
comply with international law and standards,' said a spokesperson. 'This is
crucial if justice is to be done.'
Is the US criminal justice system a weapon of mass destruction?
Money for reparations, not for war!
More information about the A-List