Former British Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg, speaking during an Amnesty International press conference in Berlin in 2010, was arrested in Britain on Feb. 25 on suspicion of Syria-related terror offenses, police said. / Simon Klingert, AFP/Getty Images
The arrest of a former Guantanamo prisoner in England on suspicion of Syria-related terrorism is the latest example of a failed release program that is setting free unrepentant jihadists, an analyst says.
United Kingdom authorities on Tuesday arrested Moazzam Begg, a British citizen of Pakistani descent, on suspicion of attending a terrorist training camp and facilitating terrorism in Syria. Three others were arrested with him.
Begg, 45, whose imprisonment was trumpeted by international human rights groups seeking to depict Guantanamo Bay as a torture chamber, had been picked up in Afghanistan as an al-Qaeda enemy combatant in 2002 and released at the request of British authorities in 2005.
"He was a very articulate spokesman for the view that detainees were widely tortured in Guantanamo and a lot of innocents were being held there," said Thomas Joscelyn, an analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. "The evidence shows that at least in his case, it was the opposite."
The organization Begg led, Cage, which seeks the release of detainees accused of terrorism at Guantanamo and elsewhere, said on its website that he was "unjustly arrested" for "humanitarian work" he was doing in Syria.
Syrian dictator Bashar Assad is battling a mostly Sunni Muslim rebellion that is also being aided by numerous jihadist groups that have established themselves in the country.
Cerie Bullivant, a spokesperson for Cage, said in a statement that Begg sought to expose British complicity in rendition and torture in Syria and that his arrest coincides with the planned release of a Cage report on Syria.
Of hundreds of terrorism suspects released from the U.S. military's detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, 30% - or about 170 - have been confirmed by intelligence officials or media reports as having turned to terrorist activities after their release, according to Joscelyn.
They include people such as Said al-Shihri, who was released from Guantanamo in 2007 and later became an al-Qaeda travel facilitator in Iran and second in command in al-Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen. He died in 2013 in a U.S. drone strike.
Several other former detainees, among them Abu Ahmad al-Muhajir, have become leaders in jihadi units fighting alongside al-Qaeda in Syria, Joscelyn said.
U.S. intelligence officials, including Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, have said the conflict in Syria is a growing terrorist recruiting zone and that Western intelligence agencies worry foreign fighters there are being trained for operations in their home countries.
Both Begg and Cage have spoken on behalf of the late U.S.-Yemeni cleric and al-Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki and spread jihadist propaganda, Joscelyn said.
Begg wrote in his book, Enemy Combatant: My Imprisonment at Guantanamo, Bagram, and Kandahar, that he's a jihadist, which he described as military and violent. Investigations by the U.S. Department of Defense and Department of Justice found no evidence of his torture claims.
Begg had been traveling to Syria and writing about his travels on his organization's website. In August, the United Kingdom revoked Begg's passport, telling him it was "not in the public interest" for him to travel. He said that he was provided documents saying he was suspected of terrorist activity during a visit to Syria in 2012, an allegation he denied.
Western human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, promoted Begg's account of his experiences as a U.S. detainee but their association with him was controversial even among their own staffers.
Gita Sahgal, who headed Amnesty International's gender unit, was suspended by the organization in 2010 after objecting to Amnesty's association with Begg, whom she described as a leader of a pro-jihadi group and "Britain's most famous supporter of the Taliban," according to the London paper The Guardian.
Begg said in his writings and materials promoted by Amnesty and others that a confession he gave to the FBI at Gitmo was coerced through torture. Numerous detainees have made such claims but no evidence has been found to back them up despite numerous investigations.
Begg's confession, which he signed and corrected in several spots, said he sympathized with al-Qaeda's cause, attended terrorist training camps in Afghanistan, Pakistan and England, "and assisted several prominent terrorists and supporters of terrorists and discussed potential terrorist acts with them," according to a 2008 report by the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General.
Begg also admitted that he "recruited young operatives for the global jihad; and provided financial support for terrorist training camps," according to the OIG report.
Begg has been a propagandist for jihadists in the U.K., but the recent arrest "suggests he was actually doing something more operational, not just propaganda," Joscelyn said. "What he admitted to in 2003 in Guantanamo is what he's being accused of now, which is facilitation."
Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com
Read the original story: Ex-Gitmo detainee latest to be suspected of terrorism