CAGE (organisation)

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CAGE (organisation) logo.png
Formation October 2003 (2003-10)
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"
Headquarters London, England
Adnan Siddiqui[1]
Formerly called

CAGE, formerly Cageprisoners Ltd, is a London-based advocacy organisation which aims to "empower communities impacted by the War on Terror" and "highlight and campaign against state policies pertaining to the War on Terror".[2][3] The organisation was formed to raise awareness of the plight of the detainees held at Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere as a result of the War on Terror and has worked closely with former detainees held by the United States and campaigns on behalf of current detainees held without trial.[2][4][5]

Its outreach director, Moazzam Begg, is a former Guantánamo Bay detainee who was released without charge in 2005. In November 2010, The Guardian reported that US embassy cables, praised Begg for his campaign for European countries to take in more Guantanamo detainees.[6]

Critics have called the organisation "apologists for terrorism",[7] a "terrorism advocacy group," and propagators of a "myth of Muslim persecution",[8] while human rights groups say the organisation is doing "vital work".[7]


The cell in which a Guantánamo Bay prisoner was detained. Inset is the prisoners' reading room

CAGE is an advocacy organisation whose stated aim is "to highlight and campaign against state policies developed as part of the War on Terror",[2] It has run campaigns in support of freeing all detainees who continue to be held without charges,[9] and to help former detainees to re-integrate into society.[6] Cage has also criticised the UK's anti-terrorism laws.[7]


In October 2003, CAGE's website was launched to highlight the plight of detainees held as part of the war on terror.[10] It published names, photos and other information about detainees which the United States had kept secret, much of which was obtained from detainees' families.[11]

CAGE's outreach director, Moazzam Begg, is a Briton from Birmingham who was held for a total of three years by the United States in extrajudicial detention as a suspected enemy combatant in Bagram and the Guantanamo Bay detainment camp in Cuba by the U.S. government.[4][12] He was released without charge in 2005.[13] He has worked to represent detainees still held at Guantanamo, 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. In November 2010, The Guardian reported that US embassy cables in the Wikileaks showed then-U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg, Cynthia Stroum, praising Begg for his campaign to persuade European nations to take in Guantanamo detainees for resettlement.[6]

Qur'an Desecration Report

In May 2005, CAGE released The Qur'an Desecration Report, which contained accounts from former Guantánamo prisoners who said they had suffered religious abuse.[14][15]

Controversies and criticisms

The journalist Terry Glavin 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".[16]

Anwar al-Awlaki

After Anwar al-Awlaki's release from Yemeni detention in 2007, Begg was the first person to interview him.[17] 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 U.K.) and August 2009 at Kensington Town Hall.[4][18]

CAGE was criticised by Gita Saghal for championing al-Awlaki, which "should have rung alarm bells", because he had been linked to al-Qaeda and various terrorists.[19] In November 2010 CAGE issued a press release to clarify their position on al-Awlaki.[20] 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. Adding 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.[21] Awlaki was later killed by the US in a drone strike in 2011.[22][23][not in citation given]

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".[24][25][26] 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.[27] 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".[28]

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".[29] Michael Weiss, a research director for The Henry Jackson Society called the satire "a sick joke".[30]

Mohamed Emwazi or '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.[31][32] Following the naming, CAGE's Press Officer, Cerie Bullivant, released a video detailing CAGE's contact with Emwazi, and 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".[7][31]

At a press conference the following day, CAGE's research director, Asim Qureshi, called Emwazi "a beautiful young man"[33] 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, "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".[34] Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the suggestion that this radicalisation was the fault of British authorities as "reprehensible", whilst Mayor of London Boris Johnson called it an "apology for terror".[35] John Spellar, said that CAGE were "very clearly coming out as apologists for terrorism".[36]

In the wake of the incident, the counter-extremist Quilliam Foundation questioned whether CAGE could have done more to prevent Emwazi, adding that for "Cage to focus entirely on grievances" was "part of the problem and not part of the solution".[37] Qureshi's sympathies were also questioned by Newsweek, after video 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.[38]

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.[39]

Partly as a result of Qureshi's statement, the Charity Commission pressured 2 charities that had previously funded CAGE to cease doing so.[40] Amnesty International, which had previously campaigned with the organisation on issues relating to Guantanamo and torture, said, “We are reviewing whether any future association with the group would now be appropriate”.[41]

Moussa Zemmouri

Mosa Zi Zemmori is a Belgian former Guantanamo Bay detainee.[42] After being placed under surveillance by the Belgian government, Zemmouri was arrested on July 24, 2015, alongside 3 others in Hoboken, Antwerp, Belgium, accused of complicity in attempted burglary, and allegedly belonging to a group suspected of recruiting for Syria.[43][44] In May 2009, Zemmori and the other former Guantanamo prisoner were both cleared of the criminal conspiracy charges.[45] Following his release in 2009, Zemmori was invited to events hosted by CAGE as a reciter of Surah.[45][46]

Charitable funding

Between 2007 and 2014, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust gave grants to CAGE totaling £271,250. In a similar period, the Roddick Foundation, founded by Anita Roddick, gave grants totaling £120,000. In 2015, following pressure from the Charity Commission, which had expressed concern that funding CAGE risked damaging public confidence in charity, both entities agreed to cease funding CAGE.[40] The Rowntree Trust defended its funding, "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," it said in a statement.[36] 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".[36]

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".[5] In October 2015, following an application for judicial review by CAGE, the Charity Commission had to change its position and said it would not in future interfere in the discretion of charities to choose to fund CAGE.[47]


In 2014, CAGE held an online discussion about Zakat, and the Muslim obligation to prisoners. It appealed to Muslims to make donations to help free those "wrongly imprisoned" in Guantanamo and elsewhere. [48]

See also


  1. ^ "Meet our team". CAGE. Retrieved 25 November 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c "About Us". CAGE. Retrieved 25 November 2016. 
  3. ^ "CAGE, Behind the headlines" (PDF). Retrieved 19 March 2017. 
  4. ^ a b c O'Neill, Sean (4 January 2010). "Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had links with London campaign group". The Times. Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. Retrieved 17 February 2010. 
  5. ^ a b "Mainstream charities have donated thousands to Islamic group fronted by terror suspect". The Telegraph. 1 March 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c MacAskill, Ewen (30 November 2010). "WikiLeaks cables show US U-turn over ex-Guantánamo inmate". The Guardian. London. 
  7. ^ a b c d McMicking, Henrietta (27 February 2015). "Cage: Important human rights group or apologists for terror?". BBC News. Retrieved 19 March 2017. 
  8. ^ "Cage: the extremists peddling lies to British Muslims to turn them into supporters of terror". The Telegraph. 28 February 2015. 
  9. ^ "About Us". CAGE. Archived from the original on 5 August 2015. Retrieved 13 August 2012. 
  10. ^ "Who we are". CAGE. Retrieved 24 November 2016. 
  11. ^ "Names of the Detained in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba". The Washington Post. 15 March 2006. Archived from the original on 16 December 2010. 
  12. ^ David Ignatius, A Prison We Need to Escape, Washington Post, 14 June 2006.
  13. ^ Tim Golden (15 June 2006). "Jihadist or Victim: Ex-Detainee Makes a Case". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 16 December 2010. 
  14. ^ "Desecrating the Qur'an: The Straw That Broke The Camel's Back". Islam Online. 26 March 2003. Archived from the original on 17 February 2011. 
  15. ^ "Report into the Systematic and Institutionalised US Desecration of the Qur`an and other Islamic Rituals" (PDF). Cageprisoners. 16 May 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 July 2016. Retrieved 25 November 2016. 
  16. ^ Glavin, Terry (8 February 2010). "Amnesty International doubles down on appeasement". The National Post. Archived from the original on 7 February 2010. 
  17. ^ "Moazzam Begg Interviews Imam Anwar Al Awlaki". Cageprisoners. 31 December 2007. Retrieved 25 November 2016. 
  18. ^ Sawer, Patrick, and Barrett, David, "Detroit bomber's mentor continues to influence British mosques and universities", The Telegraph, 2 January 2010, accessed 15 November 2016.
  19. ^ Gita Saghal (15 November 2010). "Human rights folly on Anwar al-Awlaki". Comment is free. The Guardian. 
  20. ^ "PRESS RELEASE: Cageprisoners and Anwar al-Awlaki – a factual background". CAGE. 5 November 2010. Archived from the original on 16 December 2010. 
  21. ^ "Top charities give £200,000 to group which supported al-Qaeda cleric". The Telegraph. 6 November 2010. 
  22. ^ "Two U.S.-Born Terrorists Killed in CIA-Led Drone Strike". Fox News. 30 September 2011. 
  23. ^ "Undated memo entitled "Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen who is a Senior Operational Leader of Al Qa'ida or An Associated Force" by the U.S. Department of Justice" (PDF). NBC News. Retrieved 15 August 2014. 
  24. ^ "How Amnesty chose the wrong poster-boy". The Times. 9 February 2010. 
  25. ^ "Gita Sahgal: A Statement". The Spectator. 7 February 2010. 
  26. ^ "Amnesty shouldn't support men like Moazzam Begg". The Independent. 
  27. ^ "Salman Rushdie's statement on Amnesty International". The Sunday Times. 21 February 2010. 
  28. ^ "We abhor torture – but that requires paying a price". The Guardian. 14 February 2010. 
  29. ^ "What If You Read This Headline? Breaking News - Barack Obama Is Dead". Cageprisoners. Information Clearing House. 9 May 2011. 
  30. ^ "'Barack Obama is dead': A sick joke from Moazzam Begg's Cageprisoners group". The Henry Jackson Society. 10 May 2011. 
  31. ^ a b Bullivant, Cerie (26 February 2015). "Cage & Mohammed Emwazi aka Jihadi John". CAGE Press Officer. Retrieved 19 March 2017. 
  32. ^ Ramesh, Randeep; Jalabi, Raya (3 March 2015). "Mohammed Emwazi tapes: '9/11 was wrong'". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 March 2017. 
  33. ^ "IS 'Jihadi John' suspect 'a beautiful young man' - Cage". BBC. 26 Feb 2015. 
  34. ^ "'Jihadi John' Used To Be 'Kind And Gentle'". Sky News. 27 February 2015. 
  35. ^ "Jihadi John: Activist who praised Mohammed Emwazi as "beautiful" caught on video backing jihad". The Telegraph. 27 February 2015. 
  36. ^ a b c "Charities that funded Cage, one time supporter of IS's Emwazi, under pressure". Reuters. 4 March 2015. Archived from the original on 5 March 2015. 
  37. ^ "What is Cage? Jihadi John confidant that describes executioner Mohammed Emwazi as 'beautiful'". International Business Times. 26 February 2015. 
  38. ^ "Jihadi John: UK Campaigner With Links to Emwazi Called for Jihad". Newsweek. 26 February 2015. 
  39. ^ "Jihadi John 'dead': Jeremy Corbyn says 'far better' if militant had been tried in court rather than killed". The Independent. 14 November 2015. 
  40. ^ a b "Charities sever ties with pressure group Cage over Mohammed Emwazi links". The Guardian. 6 March 2015. 
  41. ^ "Amnesty International considers cutting links with pressure group Cage". The Guardian. 2 March 2015. 
  42. ^ "Prisoners : Guantanamo: Moussa Zemmouri (Released)". Cage Prisoners. 
  43. ^ "'Official: Two former Guantanamo detainees arrested in Belgium'". CNN Leaks. 24 July 2015. 
  44. ^ "Two former Guantánamo inmates arrested in Belgium on terror charges". The Guardian. 24 July 2015. Retrieved 19 March 2017. 
  45. ^ a b Worthington, Andy (3 September 2011). "WikiLeaks and the Guantánamo Prisoners Released After the Tribunals, 2004 to 2005 (Part Two of Five) section: Mosa Zi Zemmori (ISN 270, Belgium) Released April 2005". Retrieved 3 July 2017. 
  46. ^ "'Moussa Zemmouri Reciting Surah al Ankabut'". Youtube. 26 July 2011. 
  47. ^ Ramesh, Randeep (21 October 2015). "Charities can fund controversial pressure group Cage, court finds". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 October 2015. 
  48. ^ "Zakah and the forgotten Islamic obligation towards prisoners". 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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