An upcoming article to be written by The Sunday Times’ Chief Investigative Reporter, Dipesh Gadher is a deliberate attempt to criminalise former Guantanamo Bay prisoners, once again seeking to cast doubts on the fact that all the UK prisoners were and remain innocent in sight of the law
Gadher’s questions posed to former prisoners through CAGE, come as the imminent release of Shaker Aamer, who has spent almost 14 years without charge or trial in Guantanamo, is expected.
Gadher’s questions show a startling insensitivity to the experiences of prisoners, as well as a disturbing propensity to talk down the issue of torture and its effect on an individual. This effectively makes Gadher an apologist for torture.
His approach in questioning is misleading and manipulative, and aims to draw a story that criminalises former prisoners. Instead of laying the questions at the doors of those who perpetrated torture, and holding the powerful accountable, Gadher attacks those who have suffered torture, even hounding former prisoner Tarek Dergoul at his home.
This has not been the first time that Gadher has harassed the subjects of his stories. He previously sent SMS messages to Racquell Hayden-Best, the wife of British aid worker Tauqir Sharif, claiming that her husband’s passport had been confiscated and that this meant they were both soon to be the victims of a drone attack. Such behaviour violates journalistic ethics and is worthy of legal action.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Gadher even admitted that he most enjoys “tracking people down for a story and turning up on their doorstep unannounced and asking them to speak to me.” On why he wanted to become a journalist, he says: “When I realized you could get paid for being nosey and writing about other people’s lives!”
Gadher fails to ask crucial questions surrounding unprecedented criminal investigations by the Metropolitan Police of MI5/6 for complicity in torture pertaining to the Guantanamo prisoners – including a visit to the prison camp, why the Prime Minister ordered an inquiry into British involvement in torture and how an out-of-court-settlement was reached in favour of the prisoners only after disclosures at court. This in effect proved government knowledge and participation in the torture and false imprisonment of its residents and citizens. Rather than asking these questions, Gadher, incredibly, enquires about the costs of former prisoners’ homes.
Here, CAGE addresses some of Gadher’s questions addressed to Moazzam Begg:
“You have successfully found employment since your return to the UK as outreach director of Cage. While I fully understand that Cage(Prisoners) was one of the key campaigners for the release of you and your colleagues from Guantanamo, the organisation has recently been criticised by some politicians over its alleged defence of Mohammed Emwazi, the Isis killer known as Jihadi John. Boris Johnson, the London mayor, accused Cage of being “apologists for terror”. Would you like to comment on this point?”
Moazzam’s views on ISIS and Emwazi have been emphatically made in his public appearances, writings and social media. His vehement opposition to both are a matter of public record.
The charge of “apologists for terror” is a way to shut down debate and avoid the legitimate but uncomfortable questions being raised by CAGE as to the role of security service harassment and oppressive counter-terrorism policies such as PREVENT in pushing individuals towards political violence.
“You were charged with Syria-related terrorism offences in Mar 2014 – including attending a terrorist training camp – and were held in custody for seven months. But the charges were dropped just before you were due to go on trial. Can you please state why you believe the charges were dropped and what you were doing in Syria?”
Neither Begg, Aamer, CAGE or anyone else has to answer these types of questions. Begg was interrogated at Guantanamo over 300 times yet never charged. Charges around his travels to Syria have long since been dropped after the court entered a “not guilty” verdict and West Midlands Police pronounced Begg “an innocent man”.
Further, Begg is on record that he went to Syria to investigate evidence of British and American complicity in outsourcing torture to the Syrian regime. He has also stated that charges were dropped because he was going to win his case and expose the duplicity of British policy in Syria at the time. .
Rather than questioning former detainees, those who are the architects of the War on Terror and apologists for torture, indefinite detention without trial, rendition and drone attacks should be questioned and tried.
Until all perpetrators of these abuses are brought before a court of law then it is the height of insensitivity to hound and interrogate the survivors of these crimes whilst giving the abusers a free pass.
“Some of the former detainees have ongoing physical and psychological problems related to their incarceration at Guantanamo. Can you please state whether you suffer any such problems and, if so, what treatment – if any – you are receiving?”
It is standard that most, if not all, former prisoners suffer from PTSD. This is little wonder, considering the recent revelations admitted by the United States in the Senate Report on Torture. The unaccounted part of that story as far as the UK is concerned is the role of British security services in that torture.
The following questions were addressed to our communications officer Ibrahim Mohamoud:
“Have any of them [former detainees] been in trouble with the law or with the authorities since their release? If so, in what form?”
Due to the fact that not one former prisoner has been charged and convicted of any crime, debates around recidivism are null and void, since there was no crime committed in the first place.
The experience of the vast majority of prisoners returned from around the world, in particular Britain, has demonstrated the positive and conciliatory characteristics of former prisoners. Initiatives at home and abroad such as Two Sides One Story in 2009, hosted by CAGE where former Guantanamo Bay prisoners and guards shared platforms and guards were invited to the homes of former prisoners ignited a real sense of reconciliation.
Sadly, such initiatives have not been initiated by either the US or UK governments but in fact by the prisoners themselves.
“What have they done with any compensation money they received from the British government? Many will have obviously bought houses, etc, to lay down roots, but I’ve also heard that some may have given money to charity or for zakat.”
No amount of money can ever bring back the years of damage and loss inflicted by torture and imprisonment without charge or trial. Had there been no torture or false imprisonment totaling decades in prison without charge, there’d be no need for compensation. The choice to give money away for charity or to spend it elsewhere is neither here nor there.
Rather than insinuating that this decision is incriminating, Gadher would do well to highlight the fact that the civil proceedings which resulted in out of court settlements between the government and prisoners was a de facto acceptance that the government had been complicit in the torture of the litigants.