AROUND 100 people attended a meeting in Birmingham organised by the Guantanamo Human Rights Commission on Wednesday of last week. Speakers included Azmat Begg, father of Moazzam Begg who is currently being detained at Camp Delta in Guantanamo Bay, Natalia Garcia, a human rights lawyer representing those being held in Woodhill and Belmarsh prisons under current anti-terrorism legislation, John Hemming, the Liberal Democrat leader of Birmingham City Council and Corin Redgrave of the Guantanamo Human Rights Commission.
The attendance was diverse and very representative of the city of Birmingham. Looking around the room there were young and old, black and white, Muslim and non-Muslim and people from all political allegiances. There was a delegation of worshippers from a local gurudwara (Sikh temple) who came along to pledge their support for the campaign.
Azmat Begg and Corin Redgrave spoke about their recent trip to Washington and the comparisons drawn by their fellow delegate, Terry Waite, between his captivity in Beirut and the situation in Guantanamo Bay. Also at the meeting was Riosoth Ahmed, father of Rahul Ahmed. He spoke about his concerns for his son since his return from Guantanamo. Rahul is refusing to leave the house. He has trouble sleeping, and eats only the simplest food.
Natalia Garcia spoke about the Muslim men currently being detained in British prisons without charge or trial in Britain's own 'Guantanamo'. Natalia said, 'These men were taken from their homes in the early hours and placed directly in high security prisons. It has taken them three months to have contact with their families. They still have not been questioned and they still do not know what they are being charged with.'
Parallels were drawn with the Northern Ireland situation in the 1970s. John Hemming said that internment between 1971 and 1975 did not prevent terrorist attacks but increased them and that current detainment in the UK is only one part of a wider problem.
Jamal Al-Harith, recently returned from Guantanamo Bay, was also present at the meeting. He spoke about the disregard for international law and human rights by the US authorities and how the restoration of these rights to those deprived should be at the centre of our struggle.
A motion was put forward to be taken to Birmingham City Council in May. It calls on the British government to honour its responsibility under international law by insisting on the repatriation of Moazzam Begg and the other British citizens and residents still held at Guantanamo Bay.