In Brief

Moazzam Begg: what led to his mysterious release?

Some have suggested that Begg’s charges were dropped in connection with efforts to release UK hostages held by Islamic State

Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg walked free from Belmarsh prison yesterday after seven terrorism-related charges against him were dropped.

At a pre-trial hearing lasting less than five minutes, the CPS said that it would offer no evidence. He had been charged with conducting training at a camp in Syria and possessing articles of use to terrorists.

The hasty and mysterious dropping of the charges has prompted speculation among analysts. The Times claims that Begg was released after MI5 provided "new information" that fatally undermined his prosecution. The paper adds that the "last-minute" intervention by MI5 confused and disappointed police and prosecutors, causing tension between the various arms of the state.

According to the BBC, the West Midlands Police assistant chief constable Marcus Beale told reporters that police "accepted that Moazzam Begg was an innocent man". He said: "New material has recently been disclosed to police and CPS, which has a significant impact on key pieces of evidence that underpinned the prosecution's case."

However, Beale said that he was unable to offer further details because "explaining what this newly revealed information is would mean discussing other aspects of the case which would be unfair and inappropriate as they are no longer going to be tested in court."

One theory suggests that the case was dropped due to behind-the-scenes efforts to free British hostages held by Islamic State in Syria. As The Times explains, Cage, the campaign group founded by Begg, has maintained a high-profile campaign for the release of Alan Henning, the Manchester aid volunteer who was taken hostage while in Syria.

The release came as a blow for Home Secretary Theresa May, who just 24 hours earlier had made hard-hitting promises to pursue extremists at the Tory party conference.

Begg was also reportedly disappointed not to have the opportunity to clear his name categorically. On his release, he told reporters: "To be honest I wanted my day in court." He blames his arrest on a "knee-jerk reaction" and "demonising" of the Muslim community.

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