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Week of 7.28.06

The Prisoner

In his first primetime interview on American television, a former detainee in U.S. prisons abroad tells NOW a disturbing story alleging kidnap, torture and murder.

British citizen Moazzam Begg, who spent three years in captivity at American detention facilities in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, gives us a rarely seen intimate view of a detainee's life inside the prisons of the 'war on terror.'

Begg describes a beating he witnessed while being held at a U.S. prison in Bagram, Afghanistan. "I saw his body being dragged in front of me, battered and bruised, limp," Begg said.

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Taken suddenly from his home one night in Pakistan, Begg was imprisoned without any charges ever pressed against him. He spent almost 20 months in solitary confinement at Guantanamo, and he said there was no doubt that the Geneva Conventions did not apply there or at any of the other U.S. foreign prisons where he was held.

NOW's David Brancaccio traveled to Begg's hometown in Birmingham, England to find out how a Muslim man from an educated, middle-class family ended up in an a street gang and grew entangled in militant Islamic politics.

The 37-year-old husband and father of four was accused by the U.S. of having "strong, long-term ties to terrorism," an allegation he firmly denies. Although he was set free from Guantanamo last year having never been found guilty of any crime, the U.S. government is adamant that his detention was justified.

As for the remaining 450 Guantanamo prisoners, Congress is working to hack out new laws for trying terrorism suspects after the Supreme Court ruled last month that international law does apply to "enemy combatants."

Begg recalls a conversation about Guantanamo prisoners that he had with a security guard at the detention camp. "One of the guards, what they said to me is that, 'Hell, if I wasn't a terrorist when I came here I would be by the time I was released because of what had been done to me.'"

More from NOW:

U.N. Report on Torture
The Geneva Conventions

Related Resources:

U.S. legal documents for Moazzam Begg [pdf]
Detainee deaths in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan [pdf]
U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Guantanamo Bay detainees [pdf]
Seton Hall University report on Guantanamo detainees [pdf]
Cage Prisoners: A human rights group for Guantanamo Bay prisoners
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