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UK police arrest ex-Guantanamo detainee over Syria

Tuesday - 2/25/2014, 1:24pm  ET

FILE - This is a Friday, March 3, 2006. file photo of Moazzam Begg as he gestures during an interview with the Associated Press in London. British police say a former Guantanamo Bay detainee is one of four people arrested on suspicion of Syria-related terrorism offenses. West Midlands Police said Tuesday Feb. 25, 2014 that Moazzam Begg was arrested in the Birmingham area of central England. Police say 45-year-old Begg is suspected of attending a terrorist training camp and facilitating terrorism overseas. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, File)

LONDON (AP) -- A former Guantanamo Bay detainee who is a well-known advocate for the rights of terrorism suspects was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of Syria-related terrorism offenses, British police said.

West Midlands Police said Moazzam Begg was one of four people detained in the Birmingham area of central England.

Police said Begg, 45, is suspected of attending a terrorist training camp and facilitating terrorism overseas.

He was arrested along with a 44-year-old woman, her 20-year-old son, and a 36-year-old man -- all suspected of facilitating terrorism overseas. Their names were not released.

Police in Britain do not usually name suspects until they are charged. The force said it was identifying Begg to the media "as a result of the anticipated high public interest."

The four suspects were being questioned at a Birmingham police station and their homes searched.

In 2002, Begg was arrested in Pakistan as an "enemy combatant." He was detained by U.S. forces at Bagram in Afghanistan and later sent to the prison camp in Cuba.

After his release without charge in 2005 he became a director of the advocacy group Cage, which campaigns against alleged abuses committed in the name of fighting terrorism. He is a well-known figure who appears frequently in British media.

Cage called Begg's arrest a government attempt "to ensure that any travel to Syria is deemed suspicious" and to criminalize legitimate activism.

British officials say hundreds of Britons have traveled to Syria to join the battle against the forces of President Bashar Assad. Authorities fear they could present a risk when they return home after fighting with al-Qaida-affiliated groups.

British police have stepped up arrests over suspected Syria-related terrorism.

Begg has said that authorities revoked his British passport last year, even though his trips to Syria in 2012 were approved by Britain's domestic intelligence service.

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