Crosspost: Moazzam Begg
Following the recent court settlement in favour of CAGE, Outreach Director Moazzam Begg discusses the case and how it has revealed the shocking influence of those who support Guantanamo and torture within the Charity Commission.
This week CAGE appeared in the High Court against the Charity Commission in a landmark case to determine whether the latter acted beyond its powers in seeking assurances from charities that funded CAGE to agree to never do so again. The matter was deemed so serious that the case was adjudicated by the Lord Chief Justice, Britain’s highest judge.
CAGE advocates for accountability under law
To those of us on the inside, this action didn’t occur in a vacuum. Despite CAGE’s crucial achievements, which have included advocacy against rendition and torture; facilitating dialogue between former Guantanamo soldiers and prisoners; and, negotiating the release of hostages in Iraq and Syria, British governments have been rattled by CAGE for one reason: accountability.
We have facilitated important roles in the criminal investigation into MI5/6 torture complicity; we were important contributors to the now defunct Torture Inquiry and, we are regularly called upon by mainstream media to comment on these matters and others beyond them, such as the failed PREVENT policy that is now, astonishingly, law.
People understand that because we have been on the receiving end of these measures, we have become experts in the field by necessity. There are many in the terrorism industry who don’t like that. Hence, there has been a concerted effort to shut CAGE down.
Last year, after the government falsely imprisoned me and froze my assets, CAGE’s bank accounts were closed without explanation and tremendous pressure placed on individuals connected to the organisation. Despite the police’s eventual declaration of my innocence and a written undertaking by the Treasury that CAGE was not under any investigation, its accounts remain closed to date.
The brutal murder of British aid-worker Alan Henning by ISIS executioner “Jihadi John” brought to light revelations that both CAGE and I had worked hard – even from within prison – to secure Henning’s release. This was acknowledged by David Cameron even though we held the government at fault for its multiple failures.
Following revelations that “Jihadi John” was Mohammed Emwazi, a former client of CAGE who had complained about harassment from the security services, CAGE research director Asim Qureshi, who’d met with him, said, in his view, the Emwazi of 2011 that he knew had been a “beautiful man”, during a press conference. That’s all our detractors needed. The fact that Qureshi referred to Emwazi in the past tense or that his former teachers has also described him as a “lovely, lovely, boy,” was irrelevant.
In the ensuing frenzy, CAGE members were labelled “apologists for terrorism”. The Charity Commission asserts it felt compelled to seek assurances from our supporters to cease funding us as a result.
Notwithstanding my own views on ISIS, CAGE admittedly made big mistakes in handling the affair. We have accepted this and learned from it, following an external enquiry we commissioned in response. British security services may have driven him to feel like a suicidal “dead man walking”, but Jihadi John and ISIS were responsible for killing the hostages, not them.
William Shawcross is a founding member of the Friends of Israel Initiative and a board member of the pro-Zionist, anti-Muslim Henry Jackson Society. HJS Associate Director, Douglas Murray, once infamously opined“conditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder across the board”, which of course they since have. Anti-Muslim hate crime is up by 70% in London alone. Shawcross himself said, “Europe and Islam is one of the greatest, most terrifying problems of our future”. Disturbingly, William Shawcross proudly defends torture methods, like waterboarding, and he supports Guantanamo.
In 2012, Shawcross was appointed by Cameron to lead the Charity Commission. Since then the number of Muslim charities put under special investigations has rocketed to unprecedented levels. Currently, over a quarter of all Charity Commission investigations focus on Muslim cases, 55 of them coded under “extremism and radicalization” labels.
During court proceedings this week, disclosed emails revealed the extent to which the Commission was unduly influenced by foreign entities, media and politicians. Here are a few:
- 1 March 2015: Shawcross emailed the board referring to “another compelling article on the true nature of Cage”. Written by Andrew Gilligan, the piece in the Daily Telegraph claimed Cage were “extremists peddling lies to British Muslims to turn them into supporters of terror”. Gilligan is well-known and has been exposed for his anti-Muslim bias by fellow journalists.
- 27 February 2015: Shawcross said he’d “spent the last 24 hours in Washington with senior US government counter-terrorism officials” and that “one senior analyst thought it was astonishing that Cage was not long ago exposed for what it is – a jihadist front”.
- March 2015: Theresa Villiers, Northern Ireland secretary, wrote to Shawcross: “It is wholly unacceptable for charities supported by the taxpayer to be funding an extremist group like this one [CAGE].” Villiers also urged Shawcross to stop charities from funding CAGE. Government ministers applying political pressure on independent bodies is clearly wrong.
In another email, Shawcross said: “Cage and Begg are both awful – and, like all Islamists, are very skilled at lawfare, in particular libel litigation.” Lawfare is a term Shawcross often uses to berate users of the legal process in the War on Terror. The suggestion that we shouldn’t have sought legal redress following years of torture and imprisonment without trial fits nicely with Shawcross’ stated views. They do not, however, seem to be very British – or legal. Even US President Barack Obama has repudiated the use of waterboarding as unacceptable torture. Torture and false imprisonment are crimes.
It is reprehensible that a man who openly endorses Guantanamo and torture can seek to regulate its former prisoners and those who fight against it, let alone head the Charity Commission. His position is untenable and he should be forced to resign.
In the end, CAGE agreed to cease litigation against the Charity Commission after the latter was “forced to to climb down from its attempt to prohibit charities from funding CAGE.” In other words, funders are now free to support us without any future Commission interference again.
This case raises further troubling questions about the Commission’s treatment of Muslim charities and its potential use of intimidation and undue pressure.
The impact of CAGE’s challenge has been felt across the charitable sector and will empower others concerned by government overreach. “At a time when the Charity Commission is seeking yet more powers from Parliament, today’s outcome should give lawmakers strong pause for thought,” wrote Ben Jackson, chief executive of Bond. We completely agree.
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