Former Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg addressed a packed meeting in Edinburgh University's Appleton Tower last night - just a few days before the 3rd anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.
Refusing to dwell on the abuses he suffered in US custody, he spoke of the friends he had made amongst the guards as well as amongst the prisoners. But he left no doubt in anyone's mind that the archipelago of US camps at Guantanamo, Bagram, Diego Garcia and elsewhere is an abomination that must be shut down. And he asked us to think again about describing the Guantanamo prisoners as "detainees." Many of them have simply been kidnapped, he said. He himself was abducted at the door of his house in Pakistan and bundled into a car boot.
Asked what he thought had been the most important factor in securing his release, he said that it was the campaign by his father, Azmatt Begg. Azmatt Begg visited Scotland on a number of occasions to speak at meetings arranged by SACC.
Jackie Chase, a representative of the Save Omar Deghayes Campaign, reminded the meeting that 8 British residents - including Omar Deghayes - are still being held at Guantanamo Bay. The British government has so far refused to make any representations on behalf of the men because they are do not hold British passports, although they have been living in this country. Omar has refugee status, having fled from Libya with his family in 1986. His immediate family are now settled near Brighton and are British citizens. Jackie read out a letter from Omar's mother.
Read the letter
Esther Sassaman, a US Jew currently based in Scotland, spoke in defence of the rights of the people of Palestine. Her comments struck a particular chord with Moazzam Begg, whose wife is Palestinian.
Glasgow-based human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar joined with Stop The War Coalition representative Pete Cannel in condeming the continuing British and American occupation of Iraq and the threats recently directed against Iran. He argued that the far from protecting Iraq from civil war, the occupying forces were creating strife through their policy of divide and rule. He called on the people of Iraq, Britain and the United States to follow in the footsteps of a previous generation of anti-imperialists whose actions and protests had put an end to US aggression in Vietnam.
With less than 48 hours to go before the international day of action against the occupation of Iraq, the meeting was united in calling for the British troops to come home.
The meeting was sponsored by Edinburgh Stop the War Coalition, the Islamic Society of Edinburgh University, Scotland Against Criminalising Communities, the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Edinburgh University Palestine Solidarity Society.
Earlier in the day, Moazzam Begg spoke at a meeting in the Scottish Parliament attended by a number of MPs. He also spoke the previous evening at a meeting in St Johns' Church, Edinburgh, organised by Amnesty International.