Former Guantanamo Detainee Exposes MI5 Role in Rendition

The Confession: The Story of Moazzam Begg

Al Jazeera (2017)

Film Review

In this horrifying documentary, Moazzam Begg, who spent a year at Bagram prison and two ears at Guantanamo relates the history of his kidnapping and rendition from Islamabad (Pakistan), his rape and torture in both prisons, his release without charge in 2005 and his ongoing demonization by Islamophobic police, MI5 agents and British media.

Begg, the son of Pakistani immigrants, was born and grew up in the UK (Birmingham). After several beatings by skinheads, he paid a visit to Bosnia, where foreign Islamic fighters were supporting local Muslims during the NATO war against Yugoslavia. A short time later, he quit his job to open an Islamic bookshop in Birmingham. It was at this point he began to have regular contacts with an MI5 agent named Andrew.

In mid-2001, he was arrested under the Terrorism act, and British police raided his home and bookshop. The charges were dropped, and following his release, he moved his wife and three children to Afghanistan, which at that point was ruled by the Taliban.

Following the US invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11, he and his family fled to Islamabad. On Jan 21, 2002, a group of English-speaking men came to his home, kidnapped him and flew him to Kandahar prison in Afghanistan. There, after being threatened with rendition to Syria or Egypt for further torture and/or summary execution, he signed a confession admitting to membership in Al Qaeda. He reasoned that signing it would keep him alive long enough to stand trial.

Following the US invasion of Iraq, he was transferred to Bagram prison and from there to Guantanamo.

After his January 2005 release, he was briefly in custody in the UK and released without trial. It took three years to get his passport back. He then traveled to Egypt, Tunis, Libya and Turkey seeking further evidence of the US/UK rendition program. Under this process,  Muslim intellectuals were routinely kidnapped and “rendered” to totalitarian regimes (mainly Libya, Syria and Egypt), where they were tortured and forced to confess to Al Qaeda-related crimes.

In 2014, British police arrested him for the third time and he spent seven months in Belmarsh prison on a charge of training Syrian rebels and supplying them with an electrical generator. The case collapsed for lack of evidence. He believes this arrest stemmed from pure MI5 maliciousness for his efforts to expose their role in rendition and torture.

The video can’t be embedded for copyright reasons but can be viewed free at Confession: Story of Moazzim Begg

 

 

China’s Persecuted Minority: How Did 22 Uighurs End Up in Gitmo?

The Guantanamo 22

Al Jazeera (2018)

Film Review

The Guantanamo 22 is about 22 Uighur refugees who spent seven years at Gitmo after they were sold to US forces for $5,000 each by the Pakistan military and Afghan warlords.

The Uighurs are an oppressed Turkic ethnic minority who have been persecuted by the Chinese ever since China invaded their country (Gulja) in 1949. In 2000-2001, a number sought asylum in Afghanistan after being arrested, beaten and tortured for their participating in Islamic advocacy protests.

As one of the only countries with no extradition treaty with China, prior to 9-11 Afghanistan had an established Uighur community.

After US bombing began in late 2001, the Uighur village where they lived was destroyed, and 18 survivors sought refuge in Pakistan. The villagers who took them in tricked them and handed them over to the Pakistan army. Four others were kidnapped by warlords in Afghanistan.

Once they arrived in Guantanamo, the US military allowed Chinese authorities to interrogate and torture torture them for four days – in exchange for a promise China would support the US invasion of Iraq at the UN Security Council.*

By October 2002, after 10 months at Guantanamo, all 22 had been through the Status Review Board (ie a military tribunal in which detainees are denied access to a lawyer and the right to present evidence or challenge the US military’s evidence) and found innocent of all terrorism charges. Yet it still took another seven years for most of them to be released.

In late 2002, they were finally allowed to see a lawyer working with the Center for Constitutional Rights. The first three were transferred to Albania (which still regards them as terrorists), to spare the US government the embarrassment of defending an appeal against their unlawful detention.

In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that all Guantanamo detainees had the right to appeal their detention in US federal court. A short time later, a federal judge ordered the release of the other 19 Uighurs. Shortly after his inauguration, Obama attempted to transfer two of them to Virginia, but this was blocked by Congress.

In June 2009, the US reached agreement with Bermuda to take four Uighurs. In October 2009, Pelau agreed to take six, in return for a steep increase in US aid. Switzerland, El Salvador agreed to take the rest, though many remain stateless persons in their host countries and not allowed passports.


*China ultimately reneged on this commitment

The film can’t be embedded but can be viewed for free at The Guantanamo 22

Torture 101

Taxi to the Dark Side

Directed by Alex Gibney (2007)

Film Review

Taxi to the Dark Side is a detailed expose of Bush administration torture polices at three overseas US prisons: Bagram in Afghanistan, Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Guantanamo in Cuba. It traces extensive documentary evidence that high level Bush administration officials (including Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney) personally approved illegal torture techniques and covered them up by court martially low level officers – who they dismissed as “a few bad apples.”

The film takes its title from an Afghan taxi driver named Dilawar who was accidentally swept up by occupying forces in 2002. Dilawar died of torture-induced injuries within five days of detention, a death an Army pathologist classified as homicide. A total of 105 detainees had died in US torture facilities as of 2007 when this film was made. Of these, 37 were classified as homicide.

During the campaign, Donald Trump promised to “bring back torture.” His reversal earlier this week makes this documentary especially pertinent, as he’s likely to face some backlash from his neocon supporters.

 

The Psychological Trauma Inflicted by Predatory Capitalism

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

Directed by Michael Winterbottom (2009)

Film Review

Based on Naomi Klein’s best-selling book by the same name, this documentary explores predatory capitalism’s use of psychological trauma to crush human rights and forcibly transfer vast sums of money  from the poor to the rich.

Like the book, the documentary begins with Dr Ewan Cameron’s CIA-funded research at McGill University into the long term  effects of shock therapy, sleep deprivation and other deliberately inflicted trauma. The Agency would incorporate Cameron’s findings in their Kubark counterintelligence interrogation (ie torture) manual. They went on to use Kubark to train fascist South American military officers at the School of the Americas and to interrogate random prisoners (the vast majority were never charged) at Guantanamo and Iraqi prisons.

The film also explores the “economic shock therapy” developed by the late University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman. Friedman was a master at exploiting natural and contrived disasters to impose the kind of extreme free market reforms that crush unions and wages, shut down or privatize public services and create massive unemployment – while simultaneously transferring obscene amounts of wealth from the working and middle classes to the rich.

Friedman and his cronies seized the opportunity to put their predatory theories into practice when the CIA helped overthrow democratically elected governments in Chile, Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina; during the neoconservative regimes of Thatcher and Reagan; in Russia after the Berlin Wall collapsed; in New Orleans after Katrina; in Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami; and in Iraq after 9/11.