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LONDON (AP) — British prosecutors dropped terrorism charges Wednesday against a former Guantanamo Bay detainee who is a high-profile advocate for the rights of terror suspects.
Moazzam Begg accused authorities of "demonizing" the Muslim community after he walked free, just days before he had been due to stand trial on seven counts relating to the war in Syria. In a last-minute reversal, prosecutors acknowledged that new evidence had emerged that undermined the case.
"I think it shows that we have a knee-jerk reaction. It shows that little has changed since the beginning of the early days of the war on terror," Begg said after his release from Belmarsh Prison.
Begg has been in prison for seven months awaiting trial. He had been due to go on trial next week accused of attending a terrorism training camp in Syria in 2012-2013 and of funding terrorism, among other charges.
Begg, who lives in Birmingham, was arrested in Pakistan in 2002 as an "enemy combatant." He was held by U.S. forces in Afghanistan and sent a year later to the U.S.-run prison camp in Cuba. He was released without being charged in 2005.
He is the outreach director for the campaign group Cage, wrote a book about his Guantanamo experiences and has been active in challenging the conduct of Western governments in fighting terror.
Begg's attorney, Ben Emmerson, told the court that his client's stance on Syria wasn't unlike that of the British government.
"Mr. Begg did not train anyone for the purposes of terrorism as defined in the 2001 act," he said. "Mr. Begg says he was involved in training young men to defend civilians against war crimes by the (Bashar) Assad regime."
Police issued a statement defending the investigation and said that authorities continually "assess the evidence in terrorism prosecutions and will alter course if that is the right and proper thing to do."