- It has been just over a thousand days since Pakistani
security officers broke down Moazzam Begg's front door and bundled him
into the boot of a waiting police car.
- His terrified wife and three children looked on helplessly
as Mr Begg was taken away in the middle of the night, transported to Bagram
air base near Kabul before being flown to the infamous prison camp at Guantanamo
Bay in Cuba.
- The former law student and bookshop owner from Birmingham
joined hundreds of other "unlawful combatants", shackled and
dressed in orange jump suits, and then held without charge, trial or even
access to lawyers.
- For much of his detention he has been held in solitary
confinement, often exposed to extreme weather conditions and deprived of
- His letters home, supported by testimony from former
Guantanamo detainees, reveal that Mr Begg may also have been tortured by
US military officials, increasingly desperate to extract a confession from
- Last night the end of his ordeal appeared to be in sight
after the British and American governments brokered a deal to release Mr
Begg and three other Britons from the notorious US detention centre.
- Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said following "intensive
and complex" discussions with the US, the four men would be returned
to Britain to face questioning. But for Mr Begg and his elderly father,
Azmat, who has tirelessly campaigned for his son's release, freedom will
come at a price.
- Their reunion after three turbulent years is likely to
be tempered by the psychological and physical toll of the ordeals endured
by both men. Mr Begg, or detainee JJEEH#00558 as he is known to his American
captors, will not be the same man who first left Birmingham with his family
four years ago to help educate children in Afghanistan.
- Azmat Begg said: "I will be very happy, I will be
the happiest person that he is released. But my concern is about his mental
health and his physical health after he has spent three years in solitary
confinement without talking to people.
- "I am very much worried because I was told that
even after three or four weeks in solitary confinement, like he had, that
people go out of their minds." The detainee's father, a retired bank
manager, is still haunted by the telephone call that he received from his
son while he was in the boot of the police car driving through Islamabad.
- "I can't help thinking how terrifying that must
have been for him and how distraught he must have been to have been separated
from his wife and children without a chance to say goodbye or say where
he was being taken." Moazzam Begg's three-year detention at Camp X-Ray
and Camp Delta has also taken its toll on the health of his father, who
is diabetic. Doctors have twice treated Azmat Begg, 66, for a heart condition
they believe may have been brought on by stress caused by his son's detention:
as a result, he suffers paralytic spasms.
- His ill-health has not prevented him running a high-profile
campaign for his son's release, including two trips to Washington to try
to persuade the Americans of his son's innocence and the injustice of his
continued detention. The story of Moazzam Begg, argue his family and supporters,
is a case of an innocent abroad who took his wife and three young children
to Afghanistan to help educate the local children.
- Mr Begg was a law student at Wolverhampton University
before dropping out in his second year. After marrying a local girl he
opened a bookshop in Birmingham, but started to feel the need to play a
bigger part in the education of the children in poorer countries. So he
took his young family to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
- His father said: "The Taliban didn't allow any co-education
so his wife wanted to teach the girls and he wanted to teach the boys.
But he ran into trouble with Taliban red tape. While he was waiting for
clearance he took his family to a remote area to make tube wells to improve
their access to water."
- Then the US bombardment started and the family fled to
Pakistan. It was while the Beggs were waiting in Islamabad to return to
teaching that he was arrested, taken to the US-controlled Bagram airbase,
and then to Guantanamo Bay.
- Moazzam Begg's wife, stepmother and three brothers will
spend the next few days waiting anxiously for the RAF plane that will bring
him home. But it will be the Begg children who have suffered the most.
"The eldest one can remember the day when the police came and took
her father away and she still wakes in the middle of the night screaming,"
said Azmat Begg.
- There is one other member of the Begg family who has
never seen his father. Ibrahim Begg, nearly three, was born shortly after
his mother Sally, 33, returned to Britain. Azmat Begg added: "He is
nearly old enough to be told the story of his father - it's not a story
any child should be told."
- ©2005 Independent News & Media (UK) Ltd.