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CAGE Africa supports Palestinian prison hunger strikers

Johannesburg – CAGE Africa supports the current hunger strike launched on 17 April by over 1500 Palestinian prisoners incarcerated in Israeli prisons.

We call for an end to solitary confinement, itself declared a form of torture by the United Nations, and an end to torture and other inhumane and degrading treatment that features as a daily occurrence in the lives of Palestinian prisoners.

We also call for an end to administrative detention, a process which violates international law and due process, and where individuals are effectively imprisoned without trial. Administrative detention can be indefinitely renewed, creating a torturous existence of perpetual imprisonment.

Nobody could embody the cruelty suffered by Palestinians more than Samar al-Hilmi, who has embarked on more than 4 hunger strikes and has been in Israeli prisons for more than 7 years under administrative detention despite the US saying he was not a terrorism risk in 2003. During that time he has been beaten, put in isolation for long periods in a tiny cell, repeatedly refused family visits and denied medical assistance.

On one occasion while on hunger strike in 2012, guards entered the isolation cell and announced that they were going to transfer the protestors to another section of the medical clinic. When al-Hilmi and one other prisoner refused transfer saying they would be sharing a room with prisoners who would be eating, he was beaten and put in isolation with no mattresses.

This is the treatment that prisoners risk when they are on hunger strike, and they deserve our full support.

Feroze Boda of CAGE Africa, said:

“The Israeli processes that facilitate the indefinite detention of Palestinians without trial are completely illegal under international law. Moreover, the treatment of Palestinians in prisons violate basic human rights standards and fulfil the requirements of being called torture. The hunger strike is a heroic effort by prisoners to better their circumstances and it deserves all the world’s support.”

“We commend all those in South Africa who stood in solidarity with the prisoners in the 24-hour hunger strike on 15 May. No doubt their action gave strength to those inside prison. We urge those partaking in fasting during the upcoming month of Ramadan to spare thoughts and prayers for all those suffering under the occupation of Palestine, but in particular the political prisoners like Samar Al-Hilmi.”

 

 


NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.

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Muhammad Rabbani: “I am innocent of these charges that have serious implications for journalists, lawyers and human rights defenders”

London – CAGE International Director Muhammad Rabbani was charged today at Bethnal Green police station for wilfully obstructing or seeking to frustrate a search examination under Schedule 7 when he was detained at Heathrow in November.

Mr Rabbani was unable to hand over the passwords to his devices as he was carrying crucial evidence taken from a torture survivor and did not have permission from the client to share the information.  

Mr Rabbani has taken a principled stance to protect the right to privacy in an ongoing case of torture that implicates high ranking officials. He will be challenging the charges at Westminster Magistrate’s Court on 20 June 2017.

Muhammad Rabbani, International Director for CAGE, said previously:

“This should be a moment of pride and celebration for Muslims. There are some members of our community that are not just going to complain, but who are going to take some legal steps which are outside the confined parameters of engagement while maintaining their integrity, humanity, commitment to principle and compassion for others.”

“I’m going into this eyes wide open and I’m not a victim, but I’m not a hero either. I do believe I am doing what any reasonable person would do under the circumstances in order to protect the privacy of a client.”

Moazzam Begg, Outreach Director for CAGE, said:

“Rabbani’s courage and principle in these circumstances has been an inspiration to the community. We continue to support him in his efforts to protect the privacy of us all, and to free Muslims from the constant harassment of Schedule 7 at airports.”

“At the core of this issue is the protection of crucial evidence of torture, the key to holding high ranking officials accountable for an international crime. This will be a landmark case that will test the rule of law and justice in the ‘War on Terror’.”

“I know what it is like to be forced to give your password to the authorities. In Bagram, I was tortured into surrendering my password. My colleague Rabbani was safeguarding vital and sensitive testimony, given to him by a victim of torture. Considering both the US and British Governments have been found complicit and responsible for the torture and abuse of hundreds of individuals, it is perfectly right that Rabbani does everything he can to ensure these crimes are accounted for.”

 

Join the campaign:
Visit: www.passwithprivacy.com


NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.

(CC Image Courtest of mayu on flikr)

Risking Prison for Principles: A Watershed Moment for Muslims in Britain

Fahad Ansari looks at the significance of CAGE international director Muhammed Rabbani’s principled stance on risking prison to object to the Schedule 7 law as a turning point for civil rights in Britain.

Within every civil rights movement there comes a watershed moment which marks the beginning of real social change, a critical turning point from which there is no going back. They are usually marked with individual acts of courage and personal sacrifice that not only raise public awareness of an unjust law or policy but act as the catalyst to the abolishment of the same.  Vilified by the power structures of their time, future generations have celebrated them as heroes with their persecutors confined to the dustbin of history.

When Rosa Parks refused to surrender her seat in December 1955 to a white passenger on the bus on the way from work, she was fully conscious that she was breaking the law in Alabama which required black people to relinquish seats to white people when the bus was full. Her arrest and imprisonment sparked a 381-day boycott of the Montgomery bus system. It also led to a 1956 Supreme Court decision banning segregation on public transportation.

Parks, who is now known as the ‘Mother of the Civil Rights Movement’, later said: “I had not planned to get arrested. I had plenty to do without having to end up in jail. But when I had to face that decision, I didn’t hesitate to do so because I felt that we had endured that too long. The more we gave in, the more we complied with that kind of treatment, the more oppressive it became.”

At the height of his celebrated boxing career, world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali refused to serve in the US army during the Vietnam War. He was not only stripped of his license and title but he was also sentenced to five years in prison. Ali was willing to defy the law based on his principles.

As he famously said: “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?”

Four years later, the Supreme Court overturned his conviction by a unanimous 8-0 decision. Ali’s stance in sacrificing the prime years of his boxing career, his wealth, his reputation and his liberty for his principles, energised the civil rights movement and made him a global icon.

In his famous letter from prison in 1963, Martin Luther King differentiated between just laws and unjust laws and argued that “an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.”

There are many other examples from around the world including Nelson Mandela’s incarceration for organising a worker’s strike against apartheid in South Africa and Gandhi’s regular imprisonment by the British colonial forces in India for his acts of non-violent civil disobedience.

Today, international director of CAGE, Muhammad Rabbani will report to a police station in east London where he expects to be charged with a terrorism offence. His crime: refusing to provide the police with the passwords for his devices after being detained at the airport on his return from abroad.

Whilst some may pontificate about the wisdom and sensibility of Rabbani’s actions, they need to be viewed within the context of the legislation under which he is being prosecuted. Rabbani was detained under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2001.

This law permits the authorities to detain and question any individual at any port of entry or exit to the UK for up to six hours. Under the legislation, you do not enjoy a right to silence and must answer questions. You must provide your DNA sample and allow yourself to be strip-searched if requested. You must surrender your passwords to your devices when asked.

Critically, the authorities do not need to have even the remotest level of suspicion to enable them to carry out any of these powers. Paradoxically, if the police were to arrest someone on suspicion of being involved in a criminal offence, that person would have more rights than if detained at the airport without suspicion.

Every year, over half a million people have been detained under Schedule 7 since the power was introduced with approximately 50,000 people being held every year.

The fact that only 0.2% of those detained have been arrested with an even a smaller number charged underlines the disproportionate nature of the power. This means that tens of thousands of innocent people are harassed under anti-terrorism laws every year in what is essentially a large-scale fishing expedition. The vast majority of those affected comply in the hope that they can get on with their journey and out of fear of imprisonment for not doing so.

Rabbani himself has been detained under Schedule 7 over 20 times in the past decade. He has never previously provided his password when requested to do so.  However this was the first time he was arrested for not complying. He believes it is because the material on his laptop included documentation relating to a legal case being built around alleged torture involving US intelligence agencies.

Rabbani pleaded that he could not disclose that material without the express consent of the alleged victim of torture. Like those before him, Rabbani is willing to go to prison for his principles.

If Rabbani is charged today and jailed, we should not only support him but celebrate his arrest as it may prove to be a watershed moment for civil rights in Britain.


NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.

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CAGE director in legal battle to protect crucial evidence in torture case

London – Yesterday, the Guardian and the Middle East Eye reported on Muhammad Rabbani’s legal battle to protect crucial evidence in a torture case. CAGE have launched a campaign to highlight this.


Visit our campaign site: www.passwithprivacy.com

Mr. Rabbani was arrested at Heathrow in November and will report to police on Wednesday to face a possible charge. Mr. Rabbani has never been accused or suspected of any crime but police are pursuing charges against him despite him citing client confidentiality as the reason for him not handing over his passwords.

Muhammad Rabbani, International Director for CAGE, said:

“This entire episode boils down to one thing: a password. I’m facing prison due to the existence of a power that has been operating at the UK borders for 17 years now. Using this power, officers can compel a person to surrender their passwords without cause and there’s also no right to remain silent. There is nothing like this anywhere in the Western world.”

“It was a split second decision for me. Lawyers, journalists, teachers and others who are employed to serve members of the public can all be stopped and demanded to do the same. They can be coerced into passing over private information on their clients and beneficiaries without being suspected of wrongdoing. I really do think that any professional faced with the same dilemma would do all that they could to protect their clients’ private and personal information.”

Gareth Peirce, senior partner at Birnberg Peirce and Partners, said:

Schedule 7  is an enormous blunderbuss that is over-used and the consequence of its overuse is that it is abusive. It affects almost every Muslim in ever-increasing numbers who contemplates travelling. It is not just the sheer number of Muslims stopped but that the same people are stopped repeatedly.  Once on the system, you are flagged up for life.”

Ibrahim Mohamoud, spokesperson for CAGE, said:

Statistics show that Schedule 7 stops amount to racial profiling, with 88.4% detained coming from an ethnic minority background. Only 5 people were arrested out of roughly 20,000 that were stopped last year. Clearly, huge numbers of innocent people are being interrogated and their data confiscated from them. Where is all this data being stored? With whom is it being shared? How does one remove themselves from these databases? These are some of the wider questions that Mr Rabbani wishes to raise.”

“Governments should not interfere in the work of human rights defenders, especially those investigating international law violations such as torture. The arrest of Mr Rabbani in this instance and the confiscation of his devices have significantly affected the course of an ongoing and live investigation into torture complicity by a UK ally. We are unable to make any further comment on this currently.”


NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.

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The Confession Screening in Batley

From supporting the Bosnian Mujahideen to being imprisoned in Bagram and Guantanamo, from the rebel training camps in Syria to the prison cells of Belmarsh in Britain, Moazzam Begg has experienced a generation of conflict. This is his first-hand account, a chronicle of the rise of modern jihad, its descent into terror and the disastrous reaction of the West.

Special guests and speakers: 

  • Sheikh Suliman Gani
  • Moazzam Begg, Outreach Director, CAGE
  • Anjum Anwar MBE

Date:
Saturday 13th May 2017 – 18:15
PKWA Batley

Event poster
Click on image to enlarge

NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.

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[Infographic] 7 facts the Home Office concealed: Damning data on terror arrests

The most recent data published by the Home Office on police powers under the Terrorism Act show a trend of racial discrimination and increasing evidence of what has been referred to as ‘Al Capone’ style disruption in communities.

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Click on image to enlarge and save

1- 70% of those arrested are never charged with a terrorism offence:

While arrests are often grandly announced in the media, a close look at their aftermath reveals that the overwhelming majority of those arrested are never charged under terrorism laws. An alarming 63% are not charged with any offence at all.

However what these numbers conceal is the impact arrests and raids under terrorism laws have on families. ‘Khalid’ who was raided by the police told CAGE:  “It is after this day that my mother and father find it hard to sleep at night. Any time there is a small movement or noise they think it’s the police.”

‘Khalid’ had to endure “a year of going through hard times and explaining to [his] family that I am not involved in terrorism”. Such is the stigma attached to victims of these raids.

His case is an example of the many who experienced raids but were never charged or convicted of a crime.


Read more: 6 months as a terror suspect, stopped, followed, raided and held on bail

2- Increase use of police bail

A trend CAGE has picked up, is the use of bail as a means to restrict individuals’ freedoms. At times clients feel that they have been placed on bail for an indefinite period of time.

When compared with the relatively small conviction rate, it seems that police bails are used vindictively with the aim of stopping otherwise innocent individuals from living freely.

‘Imran’ who was held under bail conditions for 2½ years described it “like a prison sentence without being in prison.” He said “It’s a huge burden on my shoulders. I can’t plan anything and my family and I live in fear that they may raid our home again.”

3- 90% of those arrested are not convicted under terrorism laws

Of all the 260 individuals arrested, those actually found guilty of a terrorism offence are just 10% or 26 people.

The low rate of conviction must be used as call to review policing tactics in order to improve police-community relations.

The continued heightening of tensions between police and communities, as well as the ongoing fear campaigns in the media, seem completely at odds with the figures available.

The rate of error – 90% of all arrests –  naturally gives rise to a broader attitude amongst impacted communities that they feel specifically targeted by the authorities.

4- 88.4% of those detained at ports and airports are from an ethnic minority or otherwise ‘not stated’

This shocking figure proves the discriminatory nature of the controversial Schedule 7 powers. (According to the last UK census, minorities constitute only 14% of the population).

This is further exacerbated because of 19,355 people stopped at airports, only 5 were charged with not complying or other terror related charges. This is a total of 0.02% or a rate of error 99.98%!

For years, CAGE has advocated that people should not be stopped if there is no indication they have committed a crime.


know your rights: schedule 7

As far back as 2012, former reviewer of terrorism legislation David Anderson stated: “Indeed, despite having made the necessary inquiries, I have not been able to identify from the police any case of a Schedule 7 examination leading directly to an arrest followed by a conviction in which the initial stop was not prompted by intelligence of some kind.”

All this demonstrates that Schedule 7 is of little value to detect crimes but, since it allows invasive questioning by police, it is rather a mass intelligence gathering operation.

5-  72% of those stopped and searched under terror laws are from ethnic minorities or ‘not stated’.

The police carried out 483 stops, 54% belonged to ethnic minorities, a further 18% refused to state, and only 28% identified as white. These stops target and profiles communities in a similar fashion as it once did black communities.

Ayman Marwa, who was stopped under these powers, said: “I was traumatised by the arrest. Before I used to have a fear of people, because I was a victim of a stabbing, and now I also fear the police. I have nerve damage on my left side and I also have a colostomy bag. The police showed no regard for my health conditions despite my protests and agony. The reason they allege [they stopped me] was because I was carrying a box, that I bought from a hardware store, which they believed was an explosive.”

Hindering the lives of the innocent

There is a clear continuation of the trend of ‘disruption’, an approach by security services which focusses on hindering the lives of ‘suspected’ individuals rather than prosecuting them.

It short-cuts due process since individuals are not given the chance to be presumed innocent nor are they allowed to challenge the assumptions made against them.


Read more: The Henry Jackson Society’s fear-mongering report paints a totally false picture of Terrorism and Muslims in the UK

From CAGE’s work, we have observed that this disruption targets Muslims disproportionately. Officially, however, these statistics remain hidden from the public. The data remains incomplete when it comes to publishing the faith distribution of those impacted, especially in airport stops where this data is recorded according to numerous testimonies we’ve collected.

This gives credence to the belief that these statistics, should they be released, would be highly embarrassing for police, who are continually insisting that they do not target Muslims.


NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.

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CAGE comments on recent spate of arrests

Since the arrest of a 27 year old man near parliament on Thursday, a series of raids and arrests have followed. Most notable was the one carried out in Willesden where a woman was shot by counter terrorism police.

Another woman was violently dragged off a bus in the same area, had her veil ripped off in public, only to be released without charge.

We cannot at this moment comment on the nature of the police investigations because information is still scarce. However we would like to make the following observations:

  • We seek an independent and transparent disclosure of all the facts, in particular how officers fired no less than 5 shots at a raid, critically injuring a female adult.
  • The tradition of policing by consent must not be undermined by an increased use of militarised policing which is the norm in inner cities in the United States and France.
  • We hope the authorities reflect on the lessons of the Forest Gate shooting of two brothers (2006), Jean Charles de Menezes (2005) and the shooting of Mark Duggan (2011).
  • We note that some sections of the media have tried to link other Muslims including CAGE to the alleged suspect, Mohamed Amoudi:
    – Firstly, we wish to make it clear that the event that is claimed Mr Amoudi attended was not organised by CAGE.
    – Secondly, and more importantly, this practice of guilt by association and smearing of Muslim individuals and organisations is now almost a daily trope. This contributes significantly to the rise of the far right politics we are now witnessing. This has also led to an escalation in the rise of racist and islamophobic attacks.

We will comment further as and when more facts are available.

 

(Image courtesy of Kieran McKenna Twitter)


NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.

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3 ways the War on Terror contributes to starve millions in Somalia and 3 ways you can help them straight away

Millions in the Horn of Africa are facing starvation due to the droughts. But droughts are nothing new in the region and have been managed successfully in the past. Though they are not man-made, the reasons droughts turn into famines are. In this case, the War on Terror has worsened the situation and contributed to a humanitarian disaster. These are some 3 reasons why and what you you can do about it.

1) Influenced by its backers, Somalia’s spends most of its money on security and administrative costs

In 2015, the Somali government’s total spending on administrative and security spending accounted for more than 85%, while only about 10% of total spending went towards economic and social services.

Over the years infrastructures such as water-reservoirs, wells and food storage facilities  previously used to cope with droughts have been left in ruins.

Despite the UK having pledged over £100m to relief efforts in Somalia, the security-heavy political restrictions placed upon charities means that aid does not find its way to the most needy.

This week, the British government announced £21m more aid to the stricken country. This aid, however, is to assist with efforts to “counter extremism” and bolster the National Security Architecture. This includes funding African Union forces and the Somali National Army, both of whom have been accused of atrocities against civilians.


read more: Britain’s war in East Africa

2) US restrictions prevent humanitarian aid in large parts of the country

Al Shabaab continues to control vast swathes of rural territory.

The designation of Al Shabaab as a terrorist organisation, first by the US then later by the UN security council, and subsequent terrorism financing laws have had a chilling effect on relief efforts. Fearing criminal prosecution, charities have been discouraged from operating in Al-Shabaab areas.

Al Shabaab has banned UN agencies and other charities from operating in the areas they control, citing ‘misconduct’ and ‘espionage’. They also placed conditions and restricted access into its areas, except to those it considers ‘independent’ and ‘neutral’.

For Michel Gabaudan, president of Refugees International, talking to the “other side” is a necessity during such crisis.

“Concerns are outweighed by the extraordinary humanitarian imperative to get assistance to those people who will not survive without it”, he wrote in 2011.

3) Humanitarian aid is used as a bargaining chip

Somali journalist for Al Jazeera Hamza Mohamed hinted to this problem in a recent Facebook post:

“Have you asked yourself how the West can airdrop bombs in areas under al-Shabaab control but has never airdropped a single sack of maize to the starving Somalis living in those areas?”, he wrote.

“Aid in Somalia is all about politics. It is not about helping Somalis. Period. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

“By not giving aid to those living in areas under al-Shabaab the West is hoping they will move away from al-Shabaab areas into government-controlled towns and cities.

This way, the West hopes, al-Shabaab will be left with empty towns and villages.

“This policy by the West is why in 2011 Mogadishu went from being the capital city of the country into an overcrowded IDP camp”, he concluded


Read more:  CAGE Africa calls for a rethink of AMISOM’s involvement in Somalia

TAKE THREE ACTIONS NOW!

 

1) Make dua!

Allah says in the quran: “And it is He who sends the winds as good tidings before His mercy, and We send down from the sky pure water. That We may bring to life thereby a dead land and give it as drink to those We created of numerous livestock and men”. Surah Al Furqan v 48-49

People have gathered across Somalia to pray for rain, performing salaat al istisqaa (Prayer for rain).

We should all supplicate in our prostration and qunoot for all those stricken by droughts and famine in the world.

2) Donate to trusted, independent charities

“Who is it that will offer up unto God a goodly loan, which He will amply repay? For, such (as do so) shall have a noble reward”. Surah Al – Hadid, 57:11

The urgency requires that we donate immediately to alleviate the suffering of the people on the ground. There are several independent charities which work on the ground. Do your research and don’t delay!

3) Campaign to end the violence that causes famine

There is no doubt that there is an urgent need to get aid delivered to the country, but if we don’t address the man-made causes of the crisis, we will likely see the same disaster again in the coming years, just like we saw it in 2011 with 250 000 losing their life.

There have been calls on social media for accountability for crimes committed by the UN backed AMISOM peace keeping forces in advance of the major London-Somalia international conference.

You can join these calls and support CAGE’s efforts to call for accountability and an end to violence in the War on Terror. Get involved by subscribing and donating.


LEARN how you can Become a CAGE supporter

 

(CC image courtesy of UN Photo on Flikr)


NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.

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6 months as a terror suspect, stopped, followed, raided and held on bail

As part of our Human Voices of the War on Terror series, we talk to ‘Abu Muhammad’, who tells his story of how he endured being stopped at the airport, raided and arrested, then released after police found nothing to prosecute him.

I come from a stable religious, caring family. Growing up, I began to explore my environment as a young person would. I was involved with the ‘wrong crowd’ but I had never been on the wrong side of the law, nor was I ever arrested.

I believe my family instilled in me virtuous values, which helped keep me safe despite the temptations around me at the time.

It was only after a major trauma in my life, which placed me in a coma, that I entirely reformed my life. It took me 2 years to make a full recovery and rebuild.

I managed to start a profitable business and developed a very close relationship with my family. My life is made up of my parents, wife and daughter.

So it was extremely upsetting to go through what I did. It was a massive shock for someone who has never been stopped and searched or arrested by the police to find himself raided and arrested on a terrorism charge.

I was aware of the work of CAGE, but I never informed myself of my rights. I never thought that I would be targeted. Unfortunately I was unaware of what to expect.

How it all began

The last few years have been extremely busy for me. Running the business has taken over my life, and I rarely have time to spare.

But I had managed to take a well-earned break to see my in laws in Morocco. It had been four years since my wife had last seen her parents. To say we were excited and happy travelling to Morocco is in an understatement.

We arrived at the airport and checked in with nothing out of the ordinary happening. But when we were due to board the flight, I noticed two plain clothed figures in the distance standing in the tunnel leading to the plane. As I drew closer to them they called my name and asked to check my passport and tickets once again.

I found this strange as my passport and ticket had just been checked moments ago at the gate. My wife and daughter were with me, but these two men, who identified themselves as officers, were not concerned with them. The focus was on me.

I had a sense of unease with them, despite remaining courteous and obliging. They began to ask me bizarre questions relating to my work sector, about prices of products and the effects of inflation. I asked myself how is this line of questioning related to security?

Their tone was very patronizing and aggressive. They then asked me about where I was going and some details about my travel arrangements.

“Why am I being stopped?” I asked them.

They turned red with embarrassment before telling me it was ‘random’.

This was extremely humiliating. The plane was full of tourists and only I and my wife, both visibly Muslim, were being held as people walked past and entered the plane. Eventually we were allowed to board.

I was followed by security services in Morocco

My impression of Morocco and its people is a very positive one. People are very friendly where my wife’s family live.

However this holiday was different. About a week into my break I began to feel I was being followed. I dismissed these thoughts until my brother-in-law also noticed that I was being followed. I did not allow this to affect my life and continued as normal, until I was visited.

A community figure known locally knocked on the door of my in-laws’ home and asked for me. To his surprise my father in-law, who was a respected official, came out to speak to him. This man apologized profusely and said he was ordered by the DST (Moroccan security services) to investigate my whereabouts.

In the course of his discussion with my father-in-law, he let slip that the British intelligence services were the ones behind the request. According to him, the British authorities were concerned I would not make the connecting domestic flight in Morocco.

The conversation ended with this community figure saying he’s satisfied I’m ‘okay’ as they’ve ‘seen me’. That was the end of all the following but they left behind a feeling of unease.

Half an hour to get through customs

My return to the UK was relatively uneventful. Once we landed in London, we waited normally to be processed through customs. My wife went first and passed through in a matter of seconds. It’s worth noting that my wife is not a British national, which is made all the stranger when compared to what I had to endure as a British national.

It took the person at the customs desk about half an hour to process me. I was asked to turn to my side, remove my glasses make strange movements as though I was being asked to pose for a mug shot. Eventually after a lengthy wait I was allowed to pass. It was the first time I experienced excessive identity checks.

I left thinking that this was a consequence of flying while Muslim. Nothing could have prepared me for what happened next.

Police raid my home and arrest me in front of my family

I hadn’t slept much the previous night; I was still exhausted from my travel. After Fajr (dawn) prayers, and around 6:25am there was a violent knock on the door. I quickly told my wife to put on her scarf, and at that moment my father opened the door and police officers stormed in screaming my name.

I repeated the Islamic remembrance:

حسبنا الله ونعم الوكيل‏

Allah (Alone) is sufficient for us, and He is the Best Disposer of affairs (for us)

‏ إنَّا لِلَّهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ

Indeed, to Allah we belong and to Him we shall return

I prepared myself for what was to come. The officers swiftly put me under arrest and moved my entire household into a single room. Even my ill elderly grandmother was moved, but the officers allowed her to return out of compassion. We were all in complete shocked, and it took a while to register what was happening.

The police were extremely aggressive; they wouldn’t allow us to communicate with each other. They looked like members of a far right organization. The only difference was that they had police badges.

I was arrested on suspicion of funding terrorism. They allowed me to clean myself and dress up before I was escorted out.

Despite their foul behavior towards my family and me I never felt any ill feeling towards them. I wish good for them, even now.

One particular officer was markedly better than the rest. When it was time for me to be cuffed, this officer approached me and requested if I would like asking my daughter to leave the room. This officer also covered my hands when I was led out of my home so neighbors and onlookers don’t see me in cuffs.

Two other officers then came along and were extremely hostile. They insulted me and my mother, who as you can imagine was crying seeing her son led away like a criminal.

I told them that this time was not an ideal time. I had just retuned from a holiday the night before. Nevertheless I was placed in the police vehicle, where another round of abuse commenced. The officers made jibes about eating pork, joking that it may be idolatrous. I responded when I could, but the whole experience was overwhelming.

News came in through the radio that there had been a bombing in a religious building in the fareast. One officer asked if there had been any Brits among the dead, but there had been none.

“That’s alright, it doesn’t matter,” one officer said.

I then thought to myself: do only British lives have value? Is this the attitude that police officers should have to human lives? It was an appalling response.

A book about my rights, which said I had none!

The officers remained in my house for a number of hours as they conducted their search. They were aggressive towards my wife and attempted to question my young daughter about my work. I felt they were attempting to use my family against me.

They confiscated all the electronic devices in my home including my daughter’s Ipad. When my wife pleaded with them, an officer sharply responded “No!”

“This case is different isn’t it?” they added.

My wife was asked to surrender the password to her phone, which she did.

At this moment I was in the police station, completely oblivious to what was happening at home. I also had no idea what my rights were.

Funnily I was given a booklet which was meant to inform me of my rights, except that it caveated that those rights were not applicable to terrorism cases.

I then threw it away, and requested a Quran. I asked Allah for comfort and resolve and began to recite the Quran, but now the verses I read had a completely new resonance with me. It was as though I was reading it for the first time. I then called upon Allah for assistance for myself and my family.

I prostrated to Allah and my heart was filled with tranquility. This verse came to my mind:

فَأَنزَلَ اللَّهُ سَكِينَتَهُ عَلَىٰ رَسُولِهِ وَعَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ

But Allah sent down His tranquility upon His Messenger and upon the believers

In such situations, alone and captive, you only have two options:
– To educate yourself about your rights.
– To use this time to connect with Allah.

Released on Bail

I was released on bail later the same day at around 10pm. It was a relief but soon it dawned on me that the number of restrictions I had placed on me ensured I was kept in near virtual imprisonment.

I was losing money on a daily basis as all of my business documents, including important contact details with suppliers had been saved on the devices the police had taken away. Furthermore I could not visit certain areas and my home was the only address I could remain in overnight.

I was also waiting on the results of a tumor I had removed and was anxious that there would be no further complications. In addition my passport had been confiscated and my wife’s visa was ending soon. Without my passport I couldn’t possibly extend her stay.

It was an extremely stressful time that was only further exacerbated by the extremely restrictive police bail conditions.

This continued for six months as the police carried out their investigations. Then without warning the case was dropped and in an instant I was free again.

MI5: “We think there’s something there”

A week or two after my case was dropped, I began to receive unsolicited calls from individuals saying they were calling from a government department. They insisted on arranging a meeting. I ignored the calls.

Then they contacted my home and asked my parents for me. But my response again was to ignore the calls.

When I did speak to them, they were using passive threatening language. They said “we think there’s something there”, despite the police having found no evidence of wrongdoing against me. They wanted me to feel vulnerable so that I would cooperate with them.

On one occasion, I was approached in the street by a male and a female agent who wanted to sit and talk with me over coffee. I said if they did not refrain from approaching me I would sue them for harassment.

As this began to escalate, I got in touch with CAGE and thankfully, I followed their advice and the harassment stopped.

Despite these interactions being limited, knowing that the MI5 is pursuing you makes you feel extremely insecure.

We tell ourselves that they “know everything”, which is an intimidating thought. But the reality is that this is an exaggeration. Only Allah knows everything and He is the one who is in control and above us all.

Be patient and smart

What this taught me is that we can challenge this type of harassment. We can do something and that ultimately there is nothing to worry about. We must have patience and console ourselves with the stories of the prophets who were tested.

It is only through turning to Allah with certainty that we can hope for His aide and assistance.

We must also take advantage of the resources available to us. We should educate ourselves and spread awareness of these issues amongst our communities. Importantly, such experiences mustn’t dissuade us from continuing our work and support for the needy across the world.

My wife is now expecting our second child, and praise be to Allah, my affairs are coming back together. I’m optimistic for the future and hope that my story empowers others and sheds some light on an important issue.

In any eventuality we must accept the decree of Allah and do as much good as we can.

 

(CC image courtesy of West Midlands Police of Flikr)


NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.

eastleigh shooting

CAGE Africa supports calls for a full and independent investigation into extrajudicial killings in Kenya

Johannesburg – CAGE Africa supports Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI) in its call, alongside 20 other organisations that make up the Police Reforms Working Group-Kenya, for a full and independent investigation into extrajudicial killings by police in Kenya.

According to the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) and the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, out of 672 extrajudicial killings cases reported between 2013 and this year, only 46 have been taken to court with only five resulting in convictions.

The call for an independent investigation gathered momentum earlier this month after the shooting in broad daylight of two young men, alleged thieves, in Eastleigh, a predominantly Somali Muslim suburb of Nairobi.

The shooting, done execution style by a police officer who appeared to have received orders via radio as he killed, went viral and resulted in protests.

According to human rights organisation Haki Africa, the majority of victims of extrajudicial killings by security forces in Kenya are Muslim.

An Al-Jazeera documentary two years ago revealed the extent to which police in Kenya co-opt the ‘War on Terror’ to justify the extrajudicial killing of Muslims.

Karen Jayes, spokesperson for CAGE Africa, said:

“Regardless of whether or not these men were criminals or Muslim, they should have been arrested and given a fair trial. This is a basic principle of the rule of law. If these rights are not given to individuals, police become a law unto themselves, and terror reigns.”

“That an officer thought it was fine to shoot two men in broad daylight in front of a crowd and that the killing was later justified by the Nairobi Police Commander demonstrates clearly the kind of impunity police officers in Kenya enjoy.”

“Last year, CAGE Africa called for a full investigation into the killing of three young Muslim women by police at a police station in Mombasa. This recent extrajudicial killing shows that the impunity enjoyed by police under the banner of the ‘War on Terror’ may be facilitating other abuses. This poses a clear danger to Kenyan society.”

 

(Picture: Screen grab from Somali NS, YouTube)


NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.