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Former Guantanamo prisoner befriends jailers

May 16th, 2013
05:09 PM ET

By Mick Krever & Juliet Fuisz, CNN

Moazzam Begg was taken from his home in the middle of the night.

He would not see freedom for more than three years. His captor was the United States Government. He was taken from his home in Pakistan to Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan; soon, he found himself thousands of miles away, at Guantanamo Bay Prison in the Caribbean Sea.

The Americans accused Begg, who is a dual Pakistani-British citizen, with aiding the Taliban and al Qaeda. He denied the charges, and was never formally charged or prosecuted.

He spent three years at Guantanamo – two in solitary confinement – before the British government successfully lobbied for his release.

“My father, he did a very high-profile campaign,” Begg told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday. “He said, ‘Please either charge my son or release him if he’s not committed a crime. … Apply the rule of law, because you’ve claimed that your country is one that establishes it, and boasts this as a civilization factor for the rest of the world.’”

Now, as over a hundred detainees at Guantanamo enter their fourth month of a hunger strike, many of them cleared for release, Begg is stepping up his campaign to make the world aware of their continued imprisonment.

“The first time that Obama said that he’s going to close Guantanamo, everybody believed him,” Begg said. “So when I go around the world and campaign and fight for the rights of the prisoners, people say, ‘Oh, isn’t that place closed?’”

Begg hopes the world will, once again, pay attention.

“The only way that they can get their voice across, as it were, is to hunger strike to point of death,” Begg said.

Being held in solitary confinement at Guantanamo – as Begg was, and many detainees now are – fosters a special kind of hopelessness, Begg said.

“It means that you don’t know what you’re there for,” he said, “or if you’re even going to see the inside of courtroom, or the face of your accuser, or have the notion of ever being released in a sane sort of way.”

Thanks to the efforts of his father, and his government, Begg was released.

He has done something that seems rather unimaginably, given his experience. He has befriended many of his former captors.

“I came across several soldiers,” Begg said, “who were really decent. Who treated me in a way, and many other prisoners in a way that earned for them the respect that we still have to this day.”

He is Facebook friends with them, he has travelled with them – he has even had them over to his house, to eat with his wife and children.

"The question I would ask though for a lot of Americans viewers,” he said, “is would American viewers reciprocate this? Would they invite former Guantanamo prisoners and others to the United States in order to be welcome in their homes? Or are we only welcome in prisons, where we’re tortured.”

Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Guantanamo • Latest Episode
soundoff (48 Responses)
  1. sdfr

    no ,thank you!

    May 16, 2013 at 9:05 pm | Reply
    • Ron Cabot

      A must watch two 5 minute Expose report, copy paste into youtube search :




      A must watch Expose

      May 18, 2013 at 10:57 am | Reply
  2. Lynn

    That's seems to be a silly question. It's not as if they were strangers before they were invited over to share a meal.

    May 16, 2013 at 9:14 pm | Reply
  3. The Thinker1958

    Christiane Amanpour as usual doing the best interviews in CNN. are the people in charge of Guantanamo psychopaths? no, really, they are afraid of the consequences of releasing them and they convince themselves that things will happen that wont.

    May 16, 2013 at 9:24 pm | Reply
    • Sunfire

      Its the fastest way to spread the religion of peace

      May 17, 2013 at 2:48 am | Reply
  4. Lynn

    Isn't the problem that no countries want to accept them so there is nowhere to release them to?

    May 16, 2013 at 9:46 pm | Reply
    • honza

      Isn't the problem the fact, that US government kidnap other countries' citizens and put them into prison with no charge, while loudly speak to the rest of the world about importance of human rights?

      May 17, 2013 at 2:21 am | Reply
    • Diane

      A lot of European countries, like mine (Belgium), accept them.

      May 17, 2013 at 6:29 am | Reply
    • Johannesd

      Rather twisted reasoning, which country kidnapped them in the first-place and held them for more than 10 years with no formal charges and no trial so who's problem are they anyhow ?

      May 17, 2013 at 10:04 am | Reply
    • diane1976

      No. The detainees are not an easy sell because they have been branded guilty without trials, and the US refuses to take them itself. But Bush released hundreds and Obama transferred about 70 when the process ground to a halt. A large group are from Yemen and they were all put on hold because the Xmas bomber had a connection there. Obama did that himself but the Congress has made so many conditions on release, an official said it's almost impossible to send them anywhere. The new Yemen government wants its people and is lobbying for them. Britain says it wants their last detainee who has been "cleared" since 2007. They didn't seem to have any post release security measures in the early Bush years. They dropped people off like stray animals thousands of ,miles from their home. They dropped a Canadian in some place like the Balkans. Now they've probably gone too far the other way.

      May 17, 2013 at 2:17 pm | Reply
  5. Emanuel Ninos

    The questions Amanpour may have missed that probably should be asked is: What did the prisoner do to get put in Guantanamo? and What sort of torture are they talking about? and How is the food and water compared to where they came from? and How is the medical and dental care compared to where they came from? and Are they allowed to worship who or what they please? and What will they do when/if they get out and where will they go? Amanpour's interview was weak and even biased. What is her agenda? What did Moazzam Begg do to be incarcerated to begin with?

    May 16, 2013 at 10:11 pm | Reply
    • Sami

      Silly questions.but listen 1) please read "INSIDE THE WIRE" by Erik Saar. When Kabul was captured, US Army announced that $ 5000 would be paid for each al-Qaida man ,if captured and handed over to them. Hundreds of Afghanis captured innocents for dollars. 2) you are lucky that you could not reach Afghanistan. Better to talk to your fellow Americans who suffered as a captive. 3) Food and water: I shall advice you to make a tour of the Muslim world. Have you heard of Turkish bath ? It is cheap if I write that the Arabs were and still are taking the best. It were the Moors of Spain who invented fork and knife, candle and napkins , chairs and table ....vis-a-vis etiquette of eating.when the whole west was yet in the caves.

      May 16, 2013 at 11:36 pm | Reply
    • Mike Solo

      It tells you about the mindset of people like Emanuel so many others whose comments surprises me.

      May 17, 2013 at 2:35 am | Reply
    • Adeel

      Comparing food, water, medical & dental care, hygene of a captive life with life spent with your family and kids as a free citizen is totally unfair. As far as torture is concerned, leaving behind the physical torture which may be present, is less painfull to know that you have done nothing wrong yet you are chained and have been put in cage thousands of miles away from your family. And I say they did nothing wrong because if US government had some thing against them, they would have been charged long ago.

      May 17, 2013 at 2:41 am | Reply
      • Desaforado

        well said

        May 17, 2013 at 7:39 pm |
    • Johannesd

      Makes you wonder why not more americans are applying for a stay ay 'hotel guantanamo' in sunny Cuba, doesn't it ?

      May 17, 2013 at 9:59 am | Reply
  6. Bush

    Stockholm Syndrome.

    May 16, 2013 at 11:14 pm | Reply
  7. Morris

    Terrorists are terrorists.

    May 16, 2013 at 11:59 pm | Reply
    • A Foreigner

      As if that's been proven or even alleged in a court of law. Many (western) people outside the US think Americans are just torturers – at least we've got more proof of that. When will the US start behaving like a civilised western nation again?

      May 17, 2013 at 4:44 am | Reply
    • Martin

      And the innocent are innocent- whats your point?

      May 17, 2013 at 7:54 am | Reply
    • Desaforado

      not proved, they are all innocent until proven guilty

      May 17, 2013 at 7:23 pm | Reply
  8. Omer

    Guantanamo holds whatever meaning it may for americans, but for the rest of the world, it is just hypocrisy.

    May 17, 2013 at 12:17 am | Reply
  9. Dick Locus

    There's still two vacant barracs waiting for Ariel and Fidel Castro!

    May 17, 2013 at 12:18 am | Reply
    • Desaforado

      who is ariel?

      May 17, 2013 at 7:26 pm | Reply
      • Get Mikey

        Who is Ariel (Castro)?

        A man who kidnapped 3 teenagers and held each prisoner for 10+ years, treating and abusing her as if she were his wife, enslaving her for his personal gratification.

        Personally, even though I am not a fan of Fidel either, I think we should cut Fidel some slack compared to what needs to happen to Ariel...

        May 20, 2013 at 2:28 am |
  10. octopus

    if Bush weren't a stüpid idîot and treated those people like humans he's achieve much more.

    May 17, 2013 at 1:37 am | Reply
    • I Want To Give America A Big Kiss And Wear Flowers In My Hair

      Pidgin English!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


      May 17, 2013 at 7:32 pm | Reply
  11. sasuhaib

    Wow, 3 years imprisonment without any criminal case. Great Job America !! You Rock !!!

    May 17, 2013 at 3:04 am | Reply
  12. ppo

    love America, home of the jerks

    May 17, 2013 at 3:42 am | Reply
    • Desaforado

      apple pie, ice cream, baseball and the most cruel judiciary system of the world

      May 17, 2013 at 7:25 pm | Reply
  13. Patrick Ludwick

    Love the beard!

    May 17, 2013 at 4:43 am | Reply
    • Mamlook

      What's the beard got to do with it??
      Should i say "LOVE WESTERN LEWDNESS"?

      May 17, 2013 at 12:28 pm | Reply
  14. Ngoc Tran

    Thanks so much to Moazzam Begg for sharing such insight views of what is really like being in Guantanoma prison and importantly for showing an example of friendship, of seeing and treating people as for who they really are, empathising for the actions that have to be done in order to fulfil their duties to their countries. Well, I am sure we all appreciate the good intention of President Obama wanting to close the Guantanamo prison as soon as possible, however, we also understand that such decision will take time to gain approval from the congress and other people before it actually happens. I believe many detainees are losing hope, they themselves as well as many Americans and people around the world are desperate to see some actions now. I believe the President could release the ones that have been cleared, have been decided to be innocent and could be released or transferred until the US could find solutions to deal with all the rest of the detainees who have not been evidently found guilty or innocent, those who are still classed as too 'dangerous' to be elsewhere etc in order to reach the final decision of actually closing the whole facility of Guantanamo prison.

    May 17, 2013 at 4:49 am | Reply
  15. A Foreigner

    How would the US feel if China or some other country rounded up some people in the US (e.g. CIA agents) and held them overseas in legal limbo? They could make equal argument that some Americans are war criminals.

    When will the US actually stop to think about why so many people are that upset with the US that they would attack the US? Time to think about whether it's anything the US has done, or how to behave internationally. Perhaps even make peace. Until the US figures that out, I would expect the US will continue to have a large bullseye painted on itself and the rest of us unfortunately get dragged along for the ride.

    May 17, 2013 at 4:53 am | Reply
  16. Betty Li Qwan

    This whole story is hogwash!
    "He was taken from his home in Pakistan to Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan; soon, he found himself thousands of miles away, at Guantanamo Bay Prison in the Caribbean Sea."

    Pakistan is a democracy like the United States. Who "took" him and why? Was is Pakistan, if so, why were they not help responsible for this fiasco and sued in court? What was the charge by the Pakistan authorities who violated the prisoners rights and set the ball in motion?
    Sounds like Pakistan is a banana republic that arrests its own citizens and turns them over to the US, unless their is a good reason?
    No wonder the drones attacks continue in Pakistan, it must be the Pakistan government requesting them.
    Hmm, its started to make sense.

    May 17, 2013 at 5:14 am | Reply
    • Adeel

      I hate to admit it but unfortunatly your assumptions about both the drone attacks and arrests of Pakistani citizens during the President Musharaf's regime are true. Those arrests were actually a form of kidnapping and the relatives of such people are still looking for them and there are hundreds of cases in courts against government agencies for missing persons.

      May 17, 2013 at 11:43 am | Reply
    • I Want To Give America A Big Kiss And Wear Flowers In My Hair

      I severely doubt the Pakistan authorities request to be assailed by CIA drones somehow,it's a conspiracy theory too far,and
      I want to lie down...

      May 17, 2013 at 7:28 pm | Reply
  17. Joe Jones

    There is a book here. However, I am guessing most of the prisoners would go back and kill Americans if given the chance. If they were at all involved in a holy war, and have blood on their hands, they should be kept captive for a long time.

    May 17, 2013 at 6:11 am | Reply
  18. Southerner01

    So wait, were the guards at Guantanamo decent people who you'd want over for dinner, or were the prisoners tortured? Also, as someone else pointed out, who invites complete strangers over for dinner? To put it another way, if I had a Pakistani friend who I found out had been held at Guantanamo and then released without charges, I might very well invite him over for dinner. Since I don't, I would not invite complete strangers over for dinner, merely because they were held in Guantanamo.

    May 17, 2013 at 6:22 am | Reply
  19. Guest5141658768

    Americans are twisted people. #fact

    May 17, 2013 at 7:11 am | Reply
    • are you serious

      Lol..Are you really serious? Did you really say this? Mars has no polution. Would you like to just go live there alone? 🙂

      May 17, 2013 at 10:11 am | Reply
      • Here I Am Sticking Up For America From Britannia AKA Little Devils

        Must be getting old...

        May 17, 2013 at 7:24 pm |
  20. rocchi

    Guantanamo is a shame for the Americans, and Obama is a lied about it.

    May 17, 2013 at 7:32 am | Reply
    • America's Just A Bit Silly


      May 17, 2013 at 7:22 pm | Reply
  21. Rajiv

    Hollywood already predicting that everyone would be muslim one day... see those zombie movies... they make dozens to them....

    May 17, 2013 at 12:09 pm | Reply
    • Mamlook

      These predictions ARE hogwash to why do they hurt??

      May 17, 2013 at 12:32 pm | Reply
    • America's Just A Bit Silly

      Do you mean dozens OF?

      Gotta sort out your prepositions,mate.

      And your country.(Iranian,right?)

      May 17, 2013 at 7:21 pm | Reply
    • INK4peace

      Then every one will go to Heavens. Thanks to Hollywood for such a wonderful prediction.

      May 20, 2013 at 12:00 am | Reply

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