A former Guantánamo Bay detainee has been told he can once again obtain a British passport after the document was taken from him eight years ago following two trips to Syria.
Moazzam Begg’s application for a new passport was rejected in September 2021, even though a terrorism prosecution relating to his time in Syria collapsed in 2014, after which police said they accepted he was innocent.
In January this year, Begg, frustrated with delays, launched a judicial review. But he has now received correspondence from the Home Office, dated 27 May and seen by the Guardian, informing him that the home secretary, Priti Patel, has decided “passport facilities can be restored” and he is able to apply for a passport if he wishes.
Begg previously said he would like to travel to visit his daughter in Turkey, whose marriage he had not been able to attend.
Begg was arrested in February 2002 in Pakistan, handed to US forces, and detained at Bagram in Afghanistan before being moved to Guantánamo Bay. During his detention he was interrogated by British and US intelligence officers but released without charge in 2005.
The trips to Syria took place in 2012 and 2013, a time when armed resistance to the regime of Bashar al-Assad was beginning from a range of groups, but before the public emergence of Islamic State in 2014.
Before his second visit, Begg said he was contacted by MI5. He told them he was trying to investigate the Security Service’s alleged role in working with the Assad regime in a programme of renditions, part of his campaigning activity.
After the conversation, Begg said he met an MI5 officer and a lawyer at an east London hotel in October 2012. He said Security Service representatives made it clear that he was free to travel to Syria, where he stayed in opposition territory near Aleppo until April 2013.
Nevertheless, his passport was taken from him in December 2013, as he returned to the UK from a trip to South Africa.
Shortly after, he was arrested on terror offences. A year later the prosecution case collapsed, undermined by secret material handed to the CPS.
Begg applied again for a passport in 2019. One was briefly issued in September 2021 but revoked four weeks later. The email revoking his passport was dated 2017 and addressed to a woman accused of passport fraud. The Home Office offered no explanation.
In January, Begg’s lawyers sent a letter to the Home Office and the Passport Office putting them on notice of legal action in an attempt to get the decision overturned.