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Cuffs off as shackles manufacturer leaves Birmingham for US.

Byline: By Tom Scotney

Protesters were celebrating yesterday after it emerged a Birmingham firm believed to have made the shackles used at Guantanamo Bay was shut down.

Hiatt Handcuffs, based in Great Barr, will be moving production to the US in July, with the loss of 15 local jobs.

The company has been trading in Birmingham for more than 200 years, and is a major supplier of handcuffs to the police.

But it had been the site of regular protests in recent years after the alleged Guantanamo link emerged.

Former Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg said he was delighted to see the company leave Birmingham, adding he had been ashamed that a company based just a few miles from where he lived had helped to keep him locked up.

Mr Begg spent nearly three years in Guantanamo Bay as a suspected terrorist. He was released in January 2005 without charge.

He said: "It's bizarre, because the first time I met my lawyer I said to him that both myself and the shackles I was in were made in Birmingham.

"There was no sense that they were taking responsibility for what they were making.

"The fact they are closing is great news, and it's appropriate that they're going to America, where they'll be closer to where they are used."

Hiatt first started manufacturing handcuffs in 1780, when they were marketed as "prisoners' handcuffs to the trade." By the early 1800s Hiatt products were used across the British Empire. They were also thought to make restraining collars for use on slaves in America.

In 2005 protesters demonstrated outside the Hiatt offices on Baltimore Road, after Mr Begg and his lawyer Clive Stafford-Smith claimed the shackles used in the Guantanamo Bay internment camp were stamped with the Hiatt name.

About a dozen protesters dressed in orange boiler suits, similar to those worn in Camp Xray, staged a song and dance routine, entitled the Shackle Shuffle. The Birmingham Guantanamo Campaign was instrumental in organising the protests.

Naeem Malik, a member of the group, said it was a good sign to see the company leave, even though production would still carry on.

He said: "Of course I'd be happier if the people still in there were released, but I'm glad that there's one less British company involved in what's happening in Guantanamo.

"We organised the protests, we tried to get in touch with them but we never got any replies to our letters or anything."

A spokeswoman for BAE Systems - the parent company of Hiatt - said she could not confirm the link between the firm and the Guantanamo Bay internment camp.

She said: "We can tell you who are customers are and one of our customers in the US Department of Defence.

"What they do with the products is really a question for them."

She added the site was due to close as part of a company restructuring to save money on management and distribution.

There had been fears that the move would disrupt supplies to police forces in the UK - almost all of which use Hiatt restraining products.

But the spokeswoman for the firm denied this, saying: "We are a global firm so we have extremely good distribution across the UK so it's more of an internal move for better operation efficiency."


Moazzam Begg: Delighted
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jun 19, 2008
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