Amnesty defends ties to GITMO detainee

Feb. 11, 2010 at 3:22 PM

LONDON, Feb. 11 (UPI) -- Amnesty International defended its position on a whistleblower who charged the rights group with aligning itself with Islamic fundamentalists.

Amnesty International suspended its head of gender unit, Gita Sahgal, after she went public with charges the group damaged its reputation by collaborating with Moazzam Begg, a British national and former inmate at Guantanamo Bay.

Sahgal in an e-mail message to Amnesty executives in January complained the relationship with Begg and his "jihadi" group, Cageprisoners, damaged the reputation of the advocacy group, The Times of London reported during the weekend.

"I believe the campaign fundamentally damages Amnesty International's integrity and, more importantly, constitutes a threat to human rights," she wrote.

Begg dismissed her claims of jihadi connections and support for terrorism as "ridiculous."

Amnesty in a statement published Thursday downplayed Saghal's suspension and defended its position regarding Begg.

The group said it was justified in working with Begg in its campaign to ask European governments to accommodate Guantanamo inmates after Washington delayed plans to close the detention facility.

"Sometimes the people whose rights we defend may not share each other's views -- but they all have human rights, and all human rights are worth defending," the group said.

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