Former Guantanamo prisoner to visit Edinburgh

Press Release from Scotland Against Criminalising Communities
Wednesday 18 June

Former Guantanamo prisoner Moazzam Begg will be visiting Edinburgh on Friday. He will be taking part in a public meeting entitled entitled Look Behind the Wire, being held on June 20 from 6pm at St John's Church on Princes Street. The meeting is part of the Edinburgh World Justice Festival, a two-week long programme of events marking the anniversary of the massive Make Poverty History demonstration held in Edinburgh in early July 2005 at the time of the G8 Summit at Gleneagles.

Moazzam Begg will be in conversation with campaigning lawyer Aamer Anwar, who is currently facing contempt of court charges over statements he made last year on behalf of a client who had been convicted of offences under terrorist legislation. The audience will be encouraged to put their own questions and views to the pair. The meeting is open to everyone and admission is free.

The meeting comes at a critical moment in the campaign to obtain fair treatment for prisoners held in the name of the "war on terror" at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere. The US Supreme Court ruled last week that the prisoners at Guantanamo "have the constitutional right to habeas corpus," enabling them to go to US courts to challenge the basis of their detention. Similar rulings in the past have only upheld the prisoners' statutory rights, and have been negated by changes in US law. But by asserting that the prisoners have a constitutional right to Habeas Corpus, the Supreme Court has this time blocked any legal steps the administration may take to get around the ruling.

Campaigners nevertheless fear that the US may respond by making increased use of secret prisons around the world. This possibility brings into sharp focus Scotland's history of providing landing facilities for rendition flights - an issue that remains unresolved.

The case of Londoner Binyam Mohamed (a refugee from Ethiopia) is expected to receive particular attention at the meeting. Binyam Mohamed suffered horrific torture at the hands of the US and its allies and is still being held at Guantanamo Bay. He is now facing trial by a "military commission," which would be no more than a kangaroo court. If convicted he could face the death penalty.

Scotland Against Criminalising Communities and many other human rights organisations are demanding immediate action from the UK Government to ensure that the pseudo-trial does not go ahead, and that Binyam is treated fairly and humanely, and is released and returned to the UK.