THE BLOG

Moazzam Begg - Case of the Suspect State

02/10/2014 10:52 BST | Updated 01/12/2014 10:59 GMT

Just over seven months ago, activist, human rights champion and former Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg was arrested, arrested on the basis that during a trip to Syria he had facilitated terrorism (or so they said). Now two seasons later and just as his trial was set to begin he's been released with all charges levelled against him dropped.

Now I'm not sure how many times one person needs to be arrested until somehow you can pocket them into a crime or how long you need to keep them in prison until they eventually commit one, but this unfounded accusation of terrorism attached to Mr Begg is a tag I'm sure he doesn't appreciate.

The man in question is no stranger to this treatment and was previously held by the U.S government at Bagram detention centre in Afghanistan and then Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Moazzam was held at the infamous facility for nearly three years after being arrested in Pakistan - he was suspected of being a member of Al Qaida. All of this took place over a decade ago, and credit where credits due, to be on the books after all these years Moazzam's clearly got star quality staying power.

This time, Moazzam's arrest was centred on his 2012 trip to Syria, one authorities were well aware of at the time. During his trip to Syria, Moazzam says he "met numerous former prisoners who had been held by the Assad regime" and "spent much time accumulating testimony and information for a report on the situation" a report for human rights advocacy group CAGE, the organisation he founded after being released from Guantanamo. Moazzam visited refugee camps and witnessed the delivery of aid and did meet some fighters, something that he hasn't hidden.

At the time of arrest research director for CAGE, Asim Qureshi said that a "Concerted campaign of harassment against Muslim individuals and charities involved in providing humanitarian aid to the victims of the Syrian crisis." was taking place adding Moazzam's "arrest was designed to ensure that any travel to Syria was deemed suspicious."

Whatever the intention might have been, the result led to exactly that. The creation of a suspect community as a result of intimidation and vilification and the inflation of a climate of fear. Muslim led Charities and individuals put into positions of difficulty where difficulty need not be. Families, loved ones and the vulnerable all placed onto into the heat.

"Moazzam Begg and his family have suffered over the past 7 months not only because of his incarceration but also because of the financial sanctions imposed upon him, as a result of which his bank accounts (including joint accounts) were frozen or shut down.... it became a criminal offence to even try and support his family with money and food during this period." Amandla Thomas-Johnson, Spokesperson, CAGE

When it was announced that Moazzam's charges had been dropped yesterday morning, it was put forward that police became aware of 'new' material, new material which meant that there was 'no longer a realistic prospect of conviction' to the seven charges levelled against him, material which would exonerate a man being held in prison. The interesting thing about this revelation is that this 'new' material hasn't just emerged, but has been around for at least two months. New material which as it happens to be, not quite so new.

Over these last few months when these facts were or weren't present, activists, scholars, rights groups, people from up and down the country continued to campaign for Moazzam's release, with very few losing faith in the man himself but with many losing faith in the justice system hear in Britain. A system our government is pushing further towards a paranoid suspect ridden state.

He's out now and there are no charges to have to stand up against, it's a happy time for family, friends and those who have been campaigning so tirelessly, but jubilation and joy have been experienced before and this can be seen through Moazzam's history, he's a man of strength and he's presented that time and time again but until the justice system is given a shake over, it is not time to rest.