Ex-detainee is freed as terror charges dropped

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FORMER Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg has walked free from jail after a string of terrorist charges linked to the civil war in Syria were dramatically dropped.

The 46-year-old accused the Government of “demonising” the Muslim community and said that on both occasions he had been detained it was “unlawful”.

He added: “I need to reconnect with my family again. I need to understand what it’s like to be a free man and I think that it’s important to point out some of the Government’s failures in its foreign policy and its internal policy - its clear demonising of the Muslim community.

“And not once but twice in my case this Government has been involved either in directly detaining me or indirectly detaining me.

“I think it shows that we have a knee-jerk reaction. It shows that little has changed since the beginning of the early days of the war on terror and there is not an appetite, there isn’t a desire, to try to really understand what’s taking place and the more this continues the more it’s going to alienate people.”

Mr Begg had been set to go on trial on Monday charged with seven counts.

The first related to attending a terrorism training camp in Syria between October 9, 2012 and April 9, 2013. The next five charges were for the possession of “an article” for a purpose connected to terrorism between December 31, 2012 and February 26, 2014.

They were listed as being electronic documents with the titles Camp 1, Camp 2, Tactical Training Schedule, Camp Rules, and Fitness Training Schedule (training exercises).

Finally, Mr Begg, of Boden Road, Hall Green, Birmingham, was charged with funding terrorism by making available a Honda generator between July 14 and July 26, 2013. He had denied all the charges against him.

At an earlier hearing in May Brian Altman QC had outlined the case against Mr Begg as he opposed bail. He said material had been found on his iPhone showing Mr Begg had been involved with training programmes in Syria over six months, during which time had had assumed a role of “power and authority”.

A transcript of Mr Begg’s conversations had been produced in which he was heard to say: “Jihad is not just a physical capacity but also about using your brain.”

On the need for training, Mr Begg also says: “They want to call it martyrdom but I said we have to be physically prepared. If you don’t prepare this just becomes suicide, not martyrdom.”

Ben Emmerson QC, defending, had said: “Mr Begg did not train anyone for the purposes of terrorism as defined in the 2001 act. Mr Begg says he was involved in training young men to defend civilians against war crimes by the Assad regime.”

Yesterday Mr Begg’s lawyer Gareth Peirce said: “Moazzam Begg is a good and brave man.

“He has spent the near-decade since he was released from the torture of Bagram and Guantanamo in attempting to wake the world up to injustice and to comprehend its causes and effects.”

West Midlands Police assistant chief constable Marcus Beale defended the investigation saying it had been carried out in a “diligent and professional manner”.

He said: “New material has recently been disclosed to police and CPS (Crown Prosecution Service), which has a significant impact on key pieces of evidence that underpinned the prosecution’s case.”