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Moazzam Begg responds to the rank claims of Gita Sahgal (former Amnesty employee)

February 8, 2010

Via Cageprisoners I have highlighted particularly pertinent sections of Moazzam Begg’s letter with bold type. 

08/02/2010

7th February 2010

Richard Kerbaj 

The Sunday Times 

Dear Mr. Kerbaj,

Your Article: ‘Amnesty International is ‘damaged’ by Taliban link’

I was shocked and extremely disappointed to see your article in today’s Sunday Times make no reference at all to the questions you so ardently sought to have answered (as mentioned below) and, that I explained to you in some detail in our telephone conversation yesterday. 

Your headline makes a serious accusation: that it proves to expose a tangible link between Amnesty and the Taliban. Can I ask exactly who in the Taliban you are referring to that is either linked to Amnesty or me?

It seems very odd that your article, which is entirely about Amnesty’s relationships with me, carries very little in the way of responses from me which you so clearly went out of your way to seek. Why is that?

When asked about the nature of my relationship with Amnesty you make no mention of my response: that I work very closely with them and that it stretches back to the time that Amnesty worked with my father when I was in Guantanamo.

I told you clearly that if you wanted to know my (and Cageprisoners’) views about Awlaki to refer to the article that is on our website: http://www.cageprisoners.com/articles.php?id=30886 in which you could have quoted, had you wished, the following:

“Cageprisoners never has and never will support the ideology of killing innocent civilians, whether by suicide bombers or B52s, whether that’s authorised by Awlaki or by Obama. Neither will we be forced into determining a person’s guilt outside a recognised court of law.” This article also deals with any concerns about the recent Christmas day plot – something you asked us about.

When asked specifically about the Taliban I told you my view: that I have advocated for engagement and dialogue with the Taliban well before our own government took the official position of doing the same – only last week – although, I did not say, like the government, we should be giving them lots of money in order to do so.

I also clearly told you, though you deliberately chose to ignore, that I had actually witnessed what I believe were human rights abuses under the Taliban and have detailed them in my book, from which you conveniently and selectively quote. I added that the US administration had perpetrated severe human rights abuses against me for years but that didn’t mean I opposed dialogue with them.  I even told you that Cageprisoners and I have initiated pioneering steps in that regard by organising tours all around the UK with former US guards from Guantanamo and men who were once imprisoned there. Cagreprisoners is the only organisation to have done so. (One of these soldiers, upon in response to your article sent this message to me:  They are attacking you and your causes…don’t forget you have real support by some of us ex-Soldiers who have seen the light…  I expect he too will be accused by your likes of being brainwashed by me). Instead, you simply say, without qualification, ‘He defended his support for the Taliban….’

Had you – and Ms Sahgal no doubt – done your homework properly you’d have discovered also that I was involved in the building of, setting up and running of a school for girls in Kabul during the time of the Taliban, but of course, that wouldn’t have sat well with the agenda and nature of your heavily biased and poorly researched article.

In relation to MS. Sahgal, I told you – and you were fully aware – that I appeared on a BBC Radio 4 show, Hecklers, alongside her, Tariq Ramadan, Lord Nazir Ahmed, Tahmina Saleem (ISB) and Daud Abdullah (MCB). I told you that her analysis of the situation on this programme was so poor and skewed that she referred to all of us as ‘partners of the government in the war against terror’ until I reminded I was sitting on the panel.

I told you too that I have never since spoken to Ms. Sahgal and that if she had any concerns about my work she has never put them to me and that I found it most odd that she found it more appropriate to discuss this in the media first. Again, had you done your research properly you’d have made some reference to our first meeting on Radio 4 where I iterated that the way to solve conflicts can be found in the Northern Ireland model (engaging with ‘terrorists). I have engaged in several such initiatives, some of them hosted by Amnesty, asking people to look at this episode as a place to find solutions. Bizarrely, Ms. Sahgal, through her argument, seemed to reject this view. Whilst it gives me no personal pleasure to hear of the suspension of Ms. Sahgal for holding her view the newspapers were not the right place to air them without first putting them to Cageprisoners or me.

You had also interviewed my colleague, Asim Qureshi, but again failed to mention anything thing he said to you in relation to the work of Cageprisoners and our relationship with Amnesty International.

To conclude, I believe your article, is written in a style clearly designed, intentionally or by negligence, to damage our relationship with human rights organisations and discredit the work we do in advocating for the rights of those who have suffered terrible human rights abuses. As such, I have referred your article to your editor and the Press Complaints Commission as a formal and major complaint and, to my lawyers to pursue legal action.

Moazzam Begg

Director

Cageprisoners Ltd
27 Gloucester Road
London
United Kingdom
WC1N 3XX 

 Richard Kerbaj’s Questions for Moazzam Begg and Cageprisoners – 6th February 2010

 As discussed earlier, I am working on an article about Amnesty International’s relationship with Moazzam Begg and Cageprisoners. I have interviewed a number of current and former Amnesty officials who have raised their concerns internally about the “unsuitable partnership” between the organisation and Begg and Cageprisoners.

 Questions for Moazzam Begg:

 Can you please describe the exact nature of your organisation’s work with Amnesty International?

 What are your current views on Anwar Al Awlaki – the Yemini-based cleric who is believed to have inspired the man behind the Fort Hood massacre and Umar Farouk Abdulmuttallab, the man behind the Detroit bomb plot? 

 What are your current views on the Taleban? And do you think the Taleban’s views are contrary to human rights?

 Has Amnesty International ever questioned your views on Awlaki, Abdulmuttallab or the Taleban?

Questions for Cageprisoners:

 Can you please describe the exact nature of Cageprisoners’ work with Amnesty International? And can you please outline the number of projects Cageprionsers has worked on – and is currently working on – with AI?

 What are Cageprisoners’ views on Anwar Al Awlaki – the Yemini-based cleric who is believed to have inspired the man behind the Fort Hood massacre and Umar Farouk Abdulmuttallab, the man behind the Detroit bomb plot? 

 What is your organisation’s views on the Taleban?

 Has Amnesty International ever questioned any Cageprisoners officials on their views on Awlaki, Abdulmuttallab or the Taleban?

 Cageprisoners has been described by a senior official at Amnesty – Gita Sahgal, who I have interviewed on the record – as a “salafi/jihadi” organisation parading as a human rights group? What is Cageprioners’ view on that claim?

Please get back to me at your earliest convenience because we are running the article this weekend.

 Best regards,

 Richard Kerbaj

The Sunday Times

Journalist

Background links:

Sunday Times ‘article’:  Amnesty International is ‘damaged’ by Taliban link

Amnesty Statement:  Human rights are for all:  Response to media article

Post at Stroppyblog which was posted yesterday solely on the basis of the Sunday Times ‘article’ and at that point without Moazzam Begg’s response:  Amnesty, reinstate Gita Saghal

An interview with Moazzam Begg from 2007:  Moazzam Begg: We have to negotiate with al-Qa’ida

Related links:

Please visit Cageprisoners for more information, including full coverage of the farcical trial of Aafia Saddiqui. 

Andy Worthington also writes an excellent blog with information about Guantanamo Torture Camp and other sites of imperial abuse, and is the author of The Guantamano Files which details how and why so many innocent people have been caught up in such a terrible way in the imperial war of terror on muslims. 

Guantanamo Justice Centre is another important source of information, with an excellent article about the expansion of Bagram:  Guantanamo’s More Evil Twin? 

Reprieve and Amnesty Ireland are also good sources of information, as are other blogs in my blogroll.

Please add any further links you might find below, and whatever you do – DO NOT BELIEVE the claims being made against Moazzam Begg before reading further into why a campaign against him would be useful to those who don’t want to listen to the truth.

Human rights are just that – for all humans.

 Related: 

Amnesty, Moazzam Begg, Gita Sahgal – Link roundup

Note:  I have edited the title from Saghal to Sahgal which is the correct spelling.

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