The so-called human rights group Cage has sparked outrage by referring to hostage killer Jihadi John, now believed to be Kuwati-born Mohammed Emwazi, as an “extremely gentle, kind,” and “beautiful young man”. Today, questions are being asked about the group led by a former Guantanamo detainee and their real motives.
The world came one step closer to learning the true identity of the man known as ‘Jihadi John’ yesterday, when the Washington Post published an article speculating that he is Mohammed Emwazi, a Kuwati-born Londoner who left for Syria in 2012.
The post quoted Asim Qureshi, research director of Cage, as saying: “There was an extremely strong resemblance” when he was shown a video and asked to confirm whether Jihadi John is Emwazi. “This is making me feel fairly certain that this is the same person”, Qureshi added.
Yesterday at a press conference Qureshi choked up as he told assembled reporters: “He was such a beautiful young man. […] He was the most humble young person that I knew”. However, he then rowed back on identifying Emwazi as Jihadi John, saying: “While I think there are striking similarities, I can’t be 100 per cent sure certain. He has got a hood on, come on guys, the guy has a hood on his head.”
Cage, the organisation that Qureshi works for, also published a press release yesterday blaming the violence committed by Muslims on the British authorities, whom it claims “have systematically shifted the spotlight away from its foreign policy and its security agencies by placing blame for violence at home and abroad solely on Muslims.
“British security services have systematically engaged in the harassment of young Muslims, rendering their lives impossible and leaving them with no legal avenue to redress their situation,” it argued.
Cage is being widely described as a “human rights organisation” this morning. On its own website, it describes itself as “an independent advocacy organisation working to empower communities impacted by the War on Terror. The organisation highlights and campaigns against state policies, striving for a world free from oppression and injustice.”
Much of their work revolves around Muslims accused or convicted of terrorism charges, who they claim are being persecuted by Western powers intent on waging war with Muslims. As such, they have drawn support the left, including from Amnesty International, the Anita Roddick Foundation, who donated £120,000 to the organisation, and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation who donated £305,000 over six years.
But in a Telegraph article published last July, Douglas Murray and Robin Simcox of the Henry Jackson Society describe Cage as “a pro-terrorist group, not a human rights group”, adding: “Its history of support for terrorists should have closed the argument on them some time ago.”
That history includes defending Aafia Siddiqui, the wife of a 9/11 plotter who was jailed for 86 years in the US for the attempted murder of US officials in Afghanistan and assaulting those who aimed to prevent her. During her trial she said that jurors should be “subject to genetic testing” to determine whether they were Jewish or Israeli. She also had wide ranging links to al-Qaeda operatives.
On it’s website, Cage paints Siddiqui as a peaceful academic who ran a charity in her spare time but was forced to flee the US due to widespread “harassment” of Muslims by the US authorities following 9/11. It claims she was “kidnapped from the streets of Karachi”, and says it has “dedicated itself to campaigning for Aafia and her family in order to help secure their release and expose those involved in their abuse.” It makes no mention of the reasons for her conviction.
Also being supported by Cage are Djamel Beghal, who was convicted in France of “belonging to a criminal association in relation to preparing an act of terrorism” following an alleged plot to blow up the US Embassy in Paris, and Nizar Trabelsi, convicted in Belgium as part of an al-Qaeda plot to carry out a suicide attack against a military base there holding US soldiers.
Footage has now emerged of Asim Qureshi allegedly addressing a Hizb ut-Tahrir rally in London in 2006, at which he says “When we see the example of our brothers and sisters fighting in Chechnya, Iraq, Palestine, Kashmir, Afghanistan, then we know where the example lies.
“When we see Hezbollah defeating the armies of Israel, we know what the solution is and where the victory lies. We know it is incumbent upon all of us to support the jihad of our brothers and sisters in these countries when they are facing the oppression of the West.”
Cage has been headed by Moazzam Begg since his release from Guantanamo, where he was held between 2002 and 2005. Since then he has been repeatedly arrested over terrorism offences related to the fighting in Syria, most recently in October, when he may have played a part in attempts to release the British hostage Alan Henning. The charity worker was murdered by Jihadi John days after Begg’s release.
Begg publicly admitted to knowing who the identity of the terrorists holding the hostages, including Henning, and blamed the British government for allowing their deaths by “demonising” him. “I was in Syria before Isis and before [al-Qaida’s] al-Nusra Front was proscribed. I was involved in interventions when they had taken hostages. I had got other groups to pressurise them and got [hostages] released,” he claimed.
But serious questions have been raised about Begg before. In 2010, Gita Sahgal, the head of Amnesty International’s Gender Unit, was hounded out of that organisation for daring to question their links with Begg, whom she described as “Britain’s most famous supporter of the Taliban”.
Amnesty had played host to a European tour by Begg, on which he urged countries to become safe havens for Guantanamo detainees, despite concerns voiced by others that they may return to terrorism. They had also organised a joint trip to Downing Street with CagePrisoners to petition for the release of Guantanamo inmates.
Saghal later told the Observer that Amnesty’s support of Begg is “something that undermines every aspect of the work we have done on discrimination against minorities. I cannot underestimate the level of horror expressed throughout the global women’s movement.” She also described the leadership at Amnesty as “ideologically bankrupt.”
Salman Rushie defended Saghal days after her suspension by Amnesty by releasing a statement in which he said “Amnesty International has done its reputation incalculable damage by allying itself with Moazzam Begg and his group Cageprisoners, and holding them up as human rights advocates. […] It is people like Gita Sahgal who are the true voices of the human rights movement; Amnesty and Begg have revealed, by their statements and actions, that they deserve our contempt.”