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5 Guantanamo Britons to be released

Azmat Begg, father of one of the Britons held at Guantanamo Bay, will be speaking at a public meeting in Glasgow on Thursday 26th February. His son, Moazzam Begg, is one of the men not included roup of 5 British detainees scheduled for early release. Paddy Hill, one of the 'Birmingham Six' jailed for 16 years for an act of terrorism he didn't commit, will also be speaking at the meeting. Paddy Hill has previously criticised the targeting of the Muslim Community in terrorism investigations. At a public meeting held in Edinburgh on 3rd February he compared the situation to the harassment suffered by the UK's Irish community in the 70s and 80s. Other speakers will include human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar and one of the Algerian men arrested during the anti-terrorism operation in Scotland last winter. Aamer Anwar is expected to talk about his clients' plans to take a civil action against the police.

Scotland Against Criminalising Communities welcomes the announcement last week that five Britons being held at Guantanamo Bay are to return home. But we are deeply concerned about the fate of the other four British citizens and three British residents held there. We note that it is now an open secret that there is no evidence against any of the British detainees that would stand up in a British court. The release of the five men seems to have been calculated to prevent the US Supreme Court hearing the appeal filed by relatives of two of them (Asif Iqbal and Shafiq Rasul). This would have been a test case, and we fear that by preventing it coming to court the US administration is seeking to delay the search for justice for the other Guantanamo detainees.

We fear that many of the men held at Guantanamo Bay are the victims of a dragnet intended to randomly gather up people with connections that spanned Afghanistan and the West in order to justify the attack on Afghanistan as a kind of police operation. This claim has been discredited by the length of time the men have been held for, and by the conditions under which they have been held. The charges announced today (24 February) against two detainees from Sudan and Yemen appear to be charges that could have been brought soon after the men were captured. This suggests that justice is not an important part of the agenda at Guantanamo Bay.

SACC is also concerned at suggestions that the British men scheduled for release may be prosecuted under the Terrorism Act 2000. The British government appears to recognise that there is no evidence that any of the men have had any part in an act of terrorism as the term is usually understood. But the Terrorism Act 2000 has been widely criticised for re-defining terrorism to include political activity previously regarded as legitimate. We would deplore any attempt to prosecute the men for this kind of activity. We hope that the British government and the British public will instead do everything possible to welcome the men home at the end of their ordeal, to assist them in their recovery from its effects, and to help them in seeking compensation from the US government.

The meeting in Glasgow is sponsored by the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees, the Miscarriage of Justice Organisation (MOJO) and the Muslim Association of Britain. It will be chaired by Kenny Ross of the Fire Brigades Union.The organisers can be contacted on 07940 165690