Cage is a London-based advocacy organisation which aims "to empower communities impacted by the War on Terror". The organisation says it "highlights and campaigns against state policies, developed as part of the War on Terror, striving for a world free from oppression and injustice". The organisation was formed to raise awareness of the plight of the detainees held at Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere and has worked closely with former detainees held by the United States and campaigns on behalf of current detainees held without trial. Cage was formerly Cageprisoners Ltd, and is sometimes styled as "CAGE".
This article needs to be updated. (November 2016)
|Type||Advocacy organisation with a focus on Muslim detainees|
|Purpose||To raise awareness of the plight of the detainees held as part of the War on Terror and to "empower communities impacted by the War on Terror"|
Its outreach director, Moazzam Begg, is a former Guantánamo Bay detainee who was released without charge in 2005.
Cage is an advocacy organisation whose stated aim is "to empower communities impacted by the War on Terror". The organisation says it "highlights and campaigns against state policies, developed as part of the War on Terror, striving for a world free from oppression and injustice". It has run campaigns in support of freeing all detainees who continue to be held without charges, and to help former detainees to re-integrate into society. Cage has also criticised the UK's anti-terrorism laws.
Cage's website was launched in October 2003. It published names, photos and other information about detainees which the United States had kept secret, much of which was obtained from detainees' families.
Cage's outreach director, Moazzam Begg, is a Briton from Birmingham who was held for three years by the United States government in extrajudicial detention as a suspected enemy combatant at Bagram in Afghanistan, and the Guantánamo Bay detainment camp in Cuba. He was released without charge in 2005. He has worked to represent detainees still held at Guantánamo, as well as to help former detainees become re-integrated into society. He has also been working with governments to persuade them to accept non-national former detainees, some of whom have been refused entry by their countries of origin.
Qur'an Desecration Report
In May 2005, Cage released The Qur'an Desecration Report, which contained accounts from former Bagram and Guantánamo prisoners who said they had suffered "systematic" religious abuse, including desecration of the Qur'an.
Controversies and criticisms
After Anwar al-Awlaki's release from Yemeni detention in 2007, Begg was the first person to interview him. Cage invited the cleric to address their Ramadan fundraising dinners in August 2008 (at Wandsworth Civic Centre, South London, by videolink, as he was banned from entering the UK) and August 2009 at Kensington Town Hall.
Cage was criticised by the activist journalist Gita Sahgal for having a relationship with al-Awlaki, which she said "should have rung alarm bells", because he had been linked to al-Qaeda and various terrorists. In November 2010, Cage issued a press release to clarify their position on al-Awlaki. They noted that, before his 18-month detention, al-Awlaki had been known as a cleric of moderate views. In that period, he had been invited to speak at the Pentagon and had served as a chaplain at an American university. They defended their support of him as a prisoner held by Yemen without charge for 18 months, and said that at their events he had only spoken of his experiences as a former prisoner. Furthermore, they added that they strongly opposed his newly-espoused radical positions, but at the same time, they opposed the United States' plan to target him for assassination in a missile strike. Awlaki was killed by the US in a 2011 drone strike.
Amnesty International controversy
In February 2010, Amnesty International suspended Gita Sahgal, its gender unit head, after she criticised Amnesty for its links with Begg. She said it was "a gross error of judgment" to work with "Britain's most famous supporter of the Taliban". Novelist-essayist Salman Rushdie supported her, saying: "Amnesty ... has done its reputation incalculable damage by allying itself with Moazzam Begg and his group Cageprisoners, and holding them up as human rights advocates". The journalist Nick Cohen wrote in The Observer: "Amnesty ... thinks that liberals are free to form alliances with defenders of clerical fascists who want to do everything in their power to suppress liberals, most notably liberal-minded Muslims".
Henry Jackson Society
After Osama bin Laden was killed in an American raid in May 2011, Cage published an editorial written as news satire. It announced "American War Criminal Barack Obama has been killed by Pakistani security forces in the UK". Michael Weiss, a research director for the neoconservative Henry Jackson Society called the satire "a sick joke".
Mohamed Emwazi ('Jihadi John')
In February 2015, Mohamed Emwazi, a 27-year-old Briton, was identified as the probable masked beheader of civilian captives of ISIS in Syria. Emwazi had, between 2009 and January 2012, been in contact with Cage while in the UK, complaining that he was being harassed by British intelligence agencies. Following the naming, Cage's Press Officer, Cerie Bullivant, released a video detailing Cage's contact with Emwazi, saying "There is going to be pressure on Muslims to condemn and apologise ... we should not have to justify our humanity by running out and feeding into this idea that all Muslims are culpable for the actions of one person."
At a press conference the following day, Cage's research director, Asim Qureshi, called Emwazi "a beautiful young man" and "extremely kind, gentle and soft-spoken". In Qureshi's view, Emwazi's contact with the UK security services had contributed to his transformation into a killer, saying that, "Individuals are prevented from travelling, placed under house arrest and in the worst cases tortured, rendered or killed, seemingly on the whim of security agents". Prime Minister David Cameron described the suggestion that Emwazi's radicalisation was the fault of British authorities as "reprehensible", whilst the then Mayor of London Boris Johnson called it an "apology for terror". The Labour Member of Parliament (MP) John Spellar said that Cage were "very clearly coming out as apologists for terrorism".
In the wake of the incident, the counter-extremist Quilliam Foundation questioned whether Cage could have done more to prevent Emwazi from travelling to Syria, saying "It's very, very important to uphold human rights in counter-extremism work, but for an organisation like Cage to focus entirely on grievances and allow those to be extrapolated in a radicalisation process is surely part of the problem and not part of the solution." Qureshi's sympathies were questioned by Newsweek, after video footage emerged of his calling for support for "the jihad of our brothers and sisters" in Iraq and Afghanistan and other countries "facing the oppression of the West" at a 2006 Hizb ut-Tahrir rally.
Following Emwazi's reported death in a drone strike in November 2015 in the Syrian Civil War, Cage was among those who expressed dissatisfaction that he had not been brought to trial.
Partly as a result of Qureshi's statement, the Charity Commission pressured two charities that had previously funded Cage to cease doing so. Amnesty International, which had previously campaigned with the organisation on issues relating to Guantánamo and torture, said, "We are reviewing whether any future association with the group would now be appropriate."
Implementation of Sharia law
In an interview featured in Episode 5 of Julian Assange's World Tomorrow broadcast by RT on 15 May 2012, representatives of Cage Moazzam Begg and Asim Qureshi expressed support for the principle of creating an Islamic caliphate, including precise implementation of Sharia law.[non-primary source needed]
Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Andrew Gilligan said Cage was a "terrorism advocacy group", and a propagator of a "myth of Muslim persecution". Gilligan also said that Liberty and Amnesty International treat Cage as a credible partner.
The journalist Terry Glavin, writing in The National Post, described the organisation as "a front for Taliban enthusiasts and Al Qaida devotees that fraudulently presents itself as a human rights group".
Muhammad Rabbani conviction
On 25 September 2017, Muhammad Rabbani, the international director of Cage, was found guilty at Westminster Magistrates Court of having wilfully obstructed police at Heathrow Airport by refusing to divulge the passwords to his mobile phone and laptop computer. Rabbani was given a conditional discharge for 12 months and ordered to pay £620 costs. Rabbani had been stopped whilst returning from Qatar, where Rabbani said he had interviewed a man to collect evidence for UK lawyers of that man's claims of having been tortured while in US custody. On two previous occasions Rabbani had refused to hand over passwords at ports and airports and had been allowed to pass.
Gareth Peirce, Rabbani's solicitor, said the verdict would be challenged in the UK High Court. The verdict confirmed that UK police have the powers under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 to demand access to electronic devices. Rabbani claimed that he had been protecting the confidentiality of his client. Rabbani and Cage described the conviction as a "moral victory" against Schedule 7.
Between 2007 and 2014, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust gave grants to Cage totalling £271,250. In a similar period, the Roddick Foundation, founded by Anita Roddick, gave grants totalling £120,000. In 2015, following pressure from the UK government's Charity Commission, which had expressed concern that funding Cage risked damaging public confidence in charity, both entities agreed to cease funding Cage. The Rowntree Trust defended its funding in a statement, commenting, "We believe (Cage) has played an important role in highlighting the ongoing abuses at Guantanamo Bay and at many other sites around the world, including many instances of torture". Cage said that the majority of their income comes from private individuals and that the group "would continue its work regardless of the criticism levelled at it ... even though we aren't a proselytizing organisation, we are a Muslim response to a problem that largely affects Muslims".
Lord Carlile, formerly the British Government's independent reviewer of anti-terrorism legislation, said at the time: "I have concerns about the group. There are civil liberty organisations which I do give money to but Cageprisoners is most certainly not one of them".
In October 2015, following an application for judicial review by Cage, the Charity Commission changed its position and said it would not in future interfere in the discretion of charities to choose to fund Cage. The judicial review heard evidence that Theresa Villiers, a British Cabinet Minister, and US intelligence had both applied pressure on the charity commission to investigate Cage, with US intelligence agents describing Cage as a "jihadist front".
In 2014, Cage held an online discussion about Zakat (the Muslim religious obligation for charitable giving) and the Muslim obligation to prisoners. It appealed to Muslims to make donations to help free those unjustly imprisoned in Guantánamo and elsewhere.
Libel case against The Times
In December 2020, Cage and Moazzam Begg received damages of £30,000 plus costs in a libel case they had brought against The Times newspaper. In June 2020, a report in The Times had suggested that Cage and Begg were supporting a man who had been arrested in relation to a knife attack in Reading in which three men were murdered. The Times report also suggested that Cage and Begg were excusing the actions of the accused man by mentioning mistakes made by the police and others. In addition to paying damages, The Times printed an apology. Cage stated that the damages amount would be used to "expose state-sponsored Islamophobia and those complicit with it in the press. ... The Murdoch press empire has actively supported xenophobic elements and undermined principles of open society and accountability. ... We will continue to shine a light on war criminals and torture apologists and press barons who fan the flames of hate".
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This Ramadan, give your support to the cause of the oppressed by paying your zakah and sadaqah to CAGE. Any money we collect in Zakah is restricted to matters which directly benefit prisoners' cases
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