Hundreds of people called for the release of former Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg today in a protest outside West Midland Police’s headquarters. The demonstration was held just hours after 45-year-old Begg was charged with Syria-related terrorism offences at Westminster Magistrate’s Court. Around 500 people attended.
Police closed Snow Hill Queensway and part of Colmore Circus in the city centre as a safety precaution while protesters gathered outside police headquarters Lloyd House.
During the demonstration, a statement from Begg’s daughter was read out by Asim Qureshi, the Research Director for CAGE. “No six-year-old should remember their father being kidnapped and thrown into the back of a car. My father was released to our home safe in England without charge and without trial from Guantanamo by the time I was ten. He has lived in the home with the belief that England will keep us safe from unjust cruelty.
“Most would keep quiet after an experience like Guantanamo. My father never stayed silent. He fought to give a voice to the voiceless.
“To relive that moment once again four days ago was a nightmare I never hoped to encounter again. We are standing strong and we are ready for what may be a long and drawn out fight. My request to you all on behalf of my father and our family is do not let these issues rest and continue the struggle. Innocent until proven guilty.”
Begg, of Boden Road, Hall Green, Birmingham, denied the charges put to him today and will appear next at the Old Bailey on March 14. He is accused of providing terrorist training and funding terrorism overseas.
He appeared in court alongside Gerrie Tahari, 44, of Ashway, Sparkbrook, who is charged with facilitating terrorism overseas. She also denies the charges and has been remanded in custody to appear on the same day as Begg.
Both were arrested on Tuesday, along with two other men who remain in police custody. They are a 36-year-old man from Shirley, Solihull, and a 20-year-old man – the son of Tahari – from Sparkhill, Birmingham. Both are held on suspicion of facilitating terrorism overseas.
Update: See also Dave Evans, “Mass rally outside Home Office in solidarity with Moazzam Begg”, Demotix, 2 March 2014