5:22PM BST 21 Jul 2014
Last week, Peter Oborne penned a love letter to “independent advocacy organisation” Cage (formerly Cage Prisoners). Oborne spoke out because, earlier this year, after Cage’s outreach director Moazzam Begg was arrested in relation to Syria-linked offences, Cage had their bank accounts closed and their assets frozen. An investigation has been launched by the Charity Commission into some of Cage’s donors. Oborne calls this investigation “alien to the way we do things in Britain”. Yet if he believes it is the investigations into Cage – rather than Cage’s actions – that are “alien to the way we do things in Britain”, then we would argue he has a radically different definition of Britishness to most British people.
Oborne gushes that Cage had “done more than any other [group] to stand up for alleged terrorists”. However, what he does not seem to realise is that Cage does not just “stand up for alleged terrorists”. It also stands up for actual, convicted terrorists.
For example, Cage is animated about the case of Aafia Siddiqui, jailed for 86 years in the US for attempting to murder US officials in Afghanistan and assaulting those who tried to stop her. Siddiqui hadwide-ranging links to al-Qaeda and was married to a key plotter behind the 9/11 attacks. At the beginning of her trial she said that jurors should be “subject to genetic testing” to see if they were Zionist or Israeli. She is no terror suspect – her guilt was proved in a court of law. Yet Cage’s profile on Siddiqui – which misses literally all this out – says it has “dedicated itself” to freeing her.
Others that Cage support include Djamel Beghal, who, following allegations of a plot to blow up the US embassy in Paris, was jailed in France in 2005 for “belonging to a criminal association in relation to preparing an act of terrorism”; and Nizar Trabelsi, convicted in Belgiumas part of an al-Qaeda plot to carry out a suicide attack against a military base there holding US soldiers.
Cage has also given sympathetic hearings (to say the least) to Abu Hamza who has been convicted in the UK of offences which include soliciting to murder and inciting racial hatred and has now also been convicted in the US on 11 terrorism charges. When Babar Ahmad pleaded guilty to terrorism charges in a US court late last year, Begg was quick to pronounce that we had to be “careful” of seeing this blatant admission of guilt “as an admission of guilt”.
Oborne is slightly less supportive of Anwar al-Awlaki, the al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula cleric who Cage had invited to speak on multiple occasions. Yet even this is couched in weasel language by saying Cage have always denied Awlaki was a “key member” of AQAP. This is nonsense for any number of reasons, not least the fact that thedocuments gained from Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound showed AQAP emir Nasir al-Wuhayshi was willing to concede leadership of the group to Awlaki; and that Awlaki played a key role in AQAP attacksagainst the West, especially in Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s underwear bomb plot of 2009. There is plenty of other evidence out there showing that Awlaki was a key part of AQAP.
Oborne says that unless the entire organisation can be prosecuted, Cage should “be left alone”. But in any case, if everyone had taken that attitude then, among other things, terrorists like Awlaki would certainly have spoken at Cage’s events. It was only because some of us raised protests at the time that he was stopped from doing so. We wonder whether, next time a young Brit tries to bring down an aeroplane from the sky or blow up a commuter train because Awlaki or some other Cage hero told them so, Oborne will continue to maintain that it was a good thing that Cage’s interpretation of “British values” was upheld.
All the evidence shows that Cage is a pro-terrorist group, not a human rights group as Oborne appears to think. Its history of support for terrorists should have closed the argument on them some time ago. We can only suppose that Peter Oborne’s advocacy of the group is based on an ignorance of the relevant facts.