Moazzam Begg of Cageprisoners wrote about al-Awlaki that it “was evident that he commanded a large following and great respect amongst many Muslims.” Indeed so. “Top charities give Â£200,000 to group which supported al-Qaeda cleric,” by Jason Lewis for the Telegraph, November 6 (thanks to Kowtow):
The radical cleric accused of inspiring the cargo bomb plot has been backed by a prominent British campaign group which has financial support from leading charities.
Yemeni authorities have charged Anwar al-Awlaki, described as spiritual mentor to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, with incitement to violence against foreigners.
Cageprisoners, a self-styled human rights organisation, has a long association with Anwar al-Awlaki, who was last week accused of being one of the figures behind the terrorist plot to blow up cargo planes which saw a powerful device defused at East Midlands Airport.
The Islamic preacher, based in Yemen, was invited to address two Cageprisoners’ fundraising dinners via video link, one last year and one in 2008.
The group has now told its backers that it no longer supports the cleric and that it “disagreed” with him over “the killing of civilians”.
But an examination of the Cageprisoners website last week suggested that its support for the cleric was as strong as ever.
Cageprisoners was set up to lobby on behalf of terror suspects held at Guantanamo Bay and those monitored under control orders in the UK.
The Sunday Telegraph can reveal that it is being funded by the Joseph Rowntree Trust, a Quaker-run fund set up by the chocolate-maker and philanthropist a century ago, and The Roddick Foundation, a charity set up by the family of Anita Roddick, the Body Shop founder, after her death three years ago.
The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust is giving Cageprisoners Â£170,000 in donations over three years – with the latest payment due this month – and The Roddick Foundation another Â£25,000.
In its website, recently re-branded with some of the charities’ cash, Cageprisoners carries more than 20 articles about al-Awlaki, describing him as an ‘inspiration’ and casting doubt on the evidence he is involved in terrorism.
Awlaki is believed by Western intelligence services to be an ideological figurehead of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the group blamed for the cargo bombs. Last year he praised the Muslim US soldier who killed 13 colleagues at Fort Hood, Texas.
Yet despite the heads of both MI5 and MI6 saying Awlaki uses the internet to foment terrorism, the Cageprisoners website also contains video messages from the American-born radical.
Cageprisoners – a not for profit company – is headed by Moazzam Begg, a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner, and also employs Feroz Ali Abbasi, another detainee freed from the controversial US base.
As recently as last month its website highlighted claims by Yemeni politicians that they had “never been given evidence against [Awlaki]”.
Earlier in the year one leading activist wrote: “Anwar al-Awlaki’s contribution to Cageprisoners has always been positive, particularly when invited to our events he has only spoken from his experiences as a former prisoner.”
Mr Begg, born in Birmingham, was detained by the Americans for nearly three years after being arrested in Pakistan and accused of being an al-Qaeda terrorist.
He has interviewed al-Awlaki, and earlier this year he wrote that it “was evident that he commanded a large following and great respect amongst many Muslims”.
But Mr Begg added that, after Awlaki’s alleged torture while held in Yemen in 2006, “I am told, Anwar’s position on issues pertaining to the US foreign policy had started to become more hostile…
“I wonder if it was terribly surprising if … after suffering abuse I know only too well US agents to be capable of, [he] now allegedly lauds the Fort Hood shootings as deeds of heroism.”
Other articles on the Cageprisoners website raise further questions.
One, on the death of Faraj Hassan, a former control order detainee, said he had died with a smile on his face “similar to the smiles we are used to seeing in videos of those martyred in the way of Allah while fighting in foreign war zones”.
Hassan, a Libyan who was accused of an attempted church bombing in Italy, was killed in a road crash in August. The Cageprisoners article added: ‘His death … may serve as the fertilizer that serves to revive the spirit of jihad in the Muslims of Britain.”
Despite the group’s views, it is still being provided with money by the Joseph Rowntree charity, to help with its “core costs”, and by the Roddick Foundation, which is run by the late businesswoman’s widower Gordon and other members of her family.
Cageprisoners has also received the backing of Amnesty International, which last year faced a public row when one of its staff was forced to quit after calling Amnesty’s links to Cageprisoners “a gross error of judgement”.
Cageprisoners also received a further Â£131,000 in donations last year from other undisclosed sources. It has used the money to pay for a rapid expansion of its work….