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British Enemy Combatant Alleges Torture, Murder by US Military at Afghan Base - 2004-10-01


A British man detained by the U.S. military as an enemy combatant in the war on terror says he was tortured while held in Afghanistan and claims he saw fellow detainees killed by American soldiers there. The U.S. military is promising an investigation into this latest claim of prisoner abuse.

Moazzam Begg has been detained as an enemy combatant since his capture in Pakistan almost three years ago. He has never been charged with a crime, but is among hundreds of foreign detainees being held indefinitely at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in the war on terror.

In a handwritten letter received by his lawyers, the 36-year-old Briton claims to have been tortured by the U.S. military and threatened with death in order to get him to confess to things he says he has not done. And he writes he witnessed the deaths of two fellow detainees at the hands of his American captors and has since been kept in solitary confinement.

"I would say he is being held separately because he has witnessed murder and therefore he is in a unique position," said his lawyer, Gareth Peirce. "He has evidence of unlawful killing by the U.S. military and that evidence is clearly being suppressed."

Another one of his lawyers, Clive Stafford Smith, says he is at a loss to explain how a letter detailing such allegations could have gotten past U.S. military authorities uncensored.

"The letter that has come through their classification process has either been let through by mistake or it has been let through because someone in the United States has a conscience," he said.

The British government is asking the United States to look into the allegations, which U.S. military officials, all the way up to Navy Secretary Gordon England, say will be done. Lieutenant Commander Nick Balice is a spokesman for the military's Central Command, which has responsibility for operations in Afghanistan.

"If there is valid evidence or claims stating that there is potential abuse or in this case death that has occurred, when that information is brought to the chain of command, those cases are investigated," said Lieutenant Commander Balice.

Moazzam Begg is one of four Britons being detained at a U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. The British government has asked the United States to free all of them. The first full military trial for an enemy combatant charged with war crimes is set to get under way at Guantanamo in December.

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