WikiLeaks: U.S. had warm words for ex-Guantanamo detainee

McClatchy NewspapersNovember 29, 2010 

WASHINGTON — A U.S. consular official in Luxembourg gave a former Guantanamo detainee warm praise earlier this year in a cable to Washington made public Monday by the website WikiLeaks.

The cable, written Jan. 15, recounted the visit to Luxembourg of Moazzam Begg, a British citizen who was arrested in Pakistan in 2002 and was held until 2005 by the Americans in Afghanistan and Guantanamo as a suspected member of al Qaida. His story, including allegations that U.S. soldiers beat him in Afghanistan, was recounted in the 2007 Academy Award winning documentary "Taxi to the Dark Side."

After his release, Begg began pushing for European countries to accept Guantanamo detainees, and was in Luxembourg to press his case, including a meeting Jan. 14 with the country's foreign minister.

His visit was monitored with interest by a U.S. consular officer, who attended an Amnesty International-sponsored screening of the film, where Begg also spoke.

Noting that the documentary was "an undisguised attack on the Bush administration," the cable said Begg, "on the other hand, presented an image of 'forgive, but never forget.' "

Begg "spoke almost exclusively about the future, with hardly any mention of torture," the cable said. But the audience of perhaps 150 people wasn't a friendly one. "The fear and skepticism was palpable," the cable said.

The cable said Begg pressed forward nevertheless, noting that many of the detainees at Guantanamo were French speakers who would fit in well in Luxembourg. The cable said Begg demonstrated "minimal ill will toward his captors — even going so far as to say he speaks on the phone occasionally with his former interrogators."

"Mr. Begg is doing our work for us," the cable concluded, "and his articulate reasoned presentation makes for a convincing argument. It is ironic that after four years of imprisonment and alleged torture, Moazzam Begg is delivering the same demarche to the (Government of Luxembourg) as we are: please consider accepting GTMO detainees for resettlement."

The cable notes, however, that Luxembourg officials continue to insist that while they support closing Guantanamo, "they cannot accept detainees for resettlement."

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