U.S. has warm words for ex-Guantánamo detainee

 
 
Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg, and three of his children, from left to right: Abdul Raman, Nisaba and Umama, was arrested by the CIA in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad in February 2002. He is a language teacher and law student who ran a bookshop selling religious and historical books and videotapes, before moving his family to Afghanistan to carry out charity work.
Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg, and three of his children, from left to right: Abdul Raman, Nisaba and Umama, was arrested by the CIA in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad in February 2002. He is a language teacher and law student who ran a bookshop selling religious and historical books and videotapes, before moving his family to Afghanistan to carry out charity work.
COURTESY ATTORNEY CLYDE STAFFORD SMITH

McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — A U.S. consular official in Luxembourg gave a former Guantánamo detainee warm praise earlier this year in a cable to Washington made public Monday by the website WikiLeaks.

The cable, written Jan. 15, recounted the visit to Luxembourg of Moazzam Begg, a British citizen who was arrested in Pakistan in 2002 and was held until 2005 by the Americans in Afghanistan and Guantánamo as a suspected member of al Qaeda. His story, including allegations that U.S. soldiers beat him in Afghanistan, was recounted in the 2007 Academy Award winning documentary "Taxi to the Dark Side."

After his release, Begg began pushing for European countries to accept Guantánamo detainees, and was in Luxembourg to press his case, including a meeting Jan. 14 with the country's foreign minister.

His visit was monitored with interest by a U.S. consular officer, who attended an Amnesty International-sponsored screening of the film, where Begg also spoke.

Noting that the documentary was "an undisguised attack on the Bush administration," the cable said Begg, "on the other hand, presented an image of 'forgive, but never forget.' "

Begg "spoke almost exclusively about the future, with hardly any mention of torture," the cable said. But the audience of perhaps 150 people wasn't a friendly one. "The fear and skepticism was palpable," the cable said.

The cable said Begg pressed forward nevertheless, noting that many of the detainees at Guantánamo were French speakers who would fit in well in Luxembourg. The cable said Begg demonstrated "minimal ill will toward his captors — even going so far as to say he speaks on the phone occasionally with his former interrogators."

"Mr. Begg is doing our work for us," the cable concluded, "and his articulate reasoned presentation makes for a convincing argument. It is ironic that after four years of imprisonment and alleged torture, Moazzam Begg is delivering the same demarche to the (Government of Luxembourg) as we are: please consider accepting GTMO detainees for resettlement."

The cable notes, however, that Luxembourg officials continue to insist that while they support closing Guantánamo, "they cannot accept detainees for resettlement."

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