LONDON: A former Guantanamo Bay detainee is planning legal action against British Home Secretary Priti Patel in a bid to get back his British passport, which authorities stripped him of eight years ago after two trips to Syria, has reported The Guardian on Wednesday.
Moazzam Begg, who was detained by the United States at Guantanamo for three years in the early 2000s, was told his application for a new passport was rejected in September 2021 despite terrorism charges relating to his travels being dropped. Syria.
The prosecution withdrew their legal efforts after learning that MI5, the British intelligence and security service, had authorized him to travel to Syria.
Begg – who works with Cage, who works with people caught up in the ‘war on terror’ – said his frustrations with the delayed system meant he had no choice but to seek judicial review.
He hopes to visit his daughter in Turkey, where she married without his presence, and travel to Bagram, Afghanistan, where he was held by US forces before being transferred to Guantanamo.
“I saw two people there being murdered by American soldiers. Now that the United States is gone, I would like to go back and try to re-examine what happened, try to visit the camp and the cells,” he said.
Begg was arrested in February 2002 in Pakistan and transferred to US forces, who held him without charge before his release in 2005.
The trips to Syria that allegedly blocked his passport application took place in 2012 and 2013, when fighting began against the Assad regime but before the rise of Daesh and the influx of foreign fighters, including British ones.
Begg said he was contacted by MI5 before his second visit to Syria. “I told them, ‘I’m trying to investigate your role in collaborating with the Assad regime in the rendition program.’ This work, he claimed, was part of his investigations with Cage.
He said MI5 officials told him he was free to travel to Syria, but his passport was taken from him when he returned in December 2013 from a trip to South Africa. Earlier that year, he remained in opposition territory in Aleppo, Syria, until April 2013.
He was later arrested and charged with terrorism offences, but the prosecution dropped the charges when further details of his visits to Syria became public, in particular that MI5 had cleared him to travel.
“They know from the probe they put in my car that I was totally against people joining Daesh,” Begg said.
He applied for a passport in 2019 and was briefly issued one in September 2021, but it was withdrawn four weeks later.
The email revoking her passport was dated 2017 and addressed to a woman accused of passport fraud.
“I think it was a cut-and-paste job, they were in a hurry,” Begg said. “They gave no explanation.”
But now he and his lawyers have written to the Home Office and the passport office to let them know he intends to reclaim his full passport.
His team should now launch a judicial review to ensure his recovery, which will be covered by crowdfunding.
“This government did not try to take away my citizenship,” he said. “But a passport is a sign of your nationality, the most unique identity document anyone has.”