On February 26, 2015, The Washington Post revealed that ISIS’s “Jihadi John,” who beheaded seven prisoners on video, was a college grad from West London called Mohammed Emwazi and was known to Asim Qureshi, research director of Cage. Cage (formerly called Cageprisoners) then gave a press conference in which Qureshi said Emwazi was “extremely kind, extremely gentle, extremely soft spoken, was the most humble young person that I knew,” and that the only reason Emwazi had joined ISIS was resentment at his treatment by British security forces, who had refused to let him travel to Somalia and Kuwait.
Cage’s praise of Emwazi became front page news, reviving the scandal of 2010 when Gita Sahgal, founder of the Centre for Secular Space, said that Cage was a jihadi defense group not a human rights organization and Amnesty should not be partnering with it. Under concerted attack, she had to resign from AI, where she was head of the gender unit; she has now been vindicated.
On March 2, Gita was interviewed on BBC4’s “Today”, along with an AI spokesman, and said, “Immense damage has been done to Amnesty, not least because they won’t come clean about their association with Cage;” she charged that Amnesty has “taken their research from them, they have shared logos with them, they have produced briefing papers together, signed letters to the government together.” On March 6, in a devastating exposure on BBC’s “This Week”, Andrew McNeill interviewed Asim Qureshi and could not even get him to disavow stoning.
After that the media storm could no longer be contained. Kate Allen of Amnesty UK issued a press release on March 12 saying “Amnesty no longer considers it appropriate to share a public platform with Cage and will not engage in coalitions of which Cage is a member.” The release, however, does not include any apology for past actions, or questioning of AI’s previous conduct.
In addition, the UK Charities Commission has come down hard on Cage’s two main charitable donors, the Roddick Foundation and the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, both of which have now issued statements that they will no longer fund Cage. The Rowntree Trust organized a letter to the Times, published March 11 and signed by a massive list of notables, to show their support for its work “under regulatory pressure and media attacks.”
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