Wed, Nov 12, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Guantanamo prisoner's father doubts US justice

REUTERS , LONDON

The US Supreme Court has agreed to consider the cases of legal-limbo Guantanamo Bay prisoners, but one British detainee's father said he was still sceptical that justice would be done.

The Supreme Court said on Monday it would examine whether US courts have jurisdiction over Guantanamo prisoners, the first time the court has taken up the case of the 660 detainees held as "enemy combatants" without charge or access to lawyers.

Advocates have cautiously hailed the decision as opening a path by which the detainees, at a US military base outside the country on the island of Cuba, could gain more rights.

But the news offered scant relief to Azmat Beg, whose son Moazzam has been held incommunicado for two years.

"I think I welcome it. But it would be much better if he would be tried here in England," he said by telephone from his home in Birmingham, an industrial city with a large Muslim population.

"He couldn't see sun or moon or natural light for one year. He was kept in a cage like an animal, not given proper food, not given proper clothes. A person who has suffered that badly, how can he stand and give witness?" he said.

The Guantanamo prisoners are usually described as battlefield captives from the war in Afghanistan. But Beg said his son was arrested in Islamabad, Pakistan, and held at the US air base at Bagram, Afghanistan, before being sent to Cuba.

At Bagram especially, he said, he believes his son was mistreated.

"He will agree to whatever they say. So how can proper justice be obtained?"

The US says it treats all the prisoners humanely. But it does not allow them routine access to lawyers who might verify that they are being treated well. Beg said the letters he receives every few months appear to be heavily supervised.

"I do not know about American justice at all. I know about justice in this country. I have faith in this country. Not of any other country," Beg said.

"He was in captivity for the past two years. I don't know if he is sane or if it has affected his mind. He should be brought back and -- we have always said this -- if he has done anything wrong he should be tried," he said. "They want to convict my son and that's why they are doing it. Otherwise they could have brought him here."

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