I know Abu Qatada – he’s no terrorist by Victoria Brittain

The voluntary departure from Britain of Omar Othman, better known as Abu Qatada, is a triumph for the independence of the judiciary over this and previous governments’ high-profile attempts to send him to face a trial in Jordan, where the evidence against him was obtained by torture. Our judiciary has safeguarded a prominent political refugee who our society chose to persecute in a disgraceful way.

 

Since 2007 as many as 12 senior British judges in various courts have recognised the torture origins of the evidence against him, which successive prime ministers and home secretaries have, until a few weeks ago, publicly put all their political weight into ignoring. The US, aided by the UK, on behalf of its key ally Jordan, went so far as to kidnap UK residents Jamil el-Banna and Bisher al-Rawi on a business trip in Africa, torture them in Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, and take them to Guantánamo in order to interrogate them about Othman. When those men sued the British authorities for what they had done, parliament was persuaded to create secret courts to adjudicate on secret defences.

 

The British judges’ success is that the Jordanian government has now made a change in its law that applies only to Othman and no one else. In his case the burden of proof is now on the prosecutor to show that any statement made against him in court was not produced by torture or any other form of ill-treatment – a reversal of the previous situation. In addition, his safety in Jordan is enormously enhanced by the new conditions agreed, which include his detention in a civilian facility, the exclusion of the Jordanian intelligence service from any access to him, monitoring by an independent human rights body, and a commitment that Britain will be contacted if there are concerns.

 

But the most recent phase of this long saga has left poison in our society. The home secretary, prime minister, mayor of London, countless MPs – including senior Labour party figures – have led the media in reckless and prejudiced comments, making Othman the most demonised individual in Britain.

 

The mantra of the home secretary, Theresa May, that “this is a dangerous man, a suspected terrorist”, has been repeated so often that the facts have been forgotten. No one suggests Othman is physically dangerous himself. No one has charged him with anything, except the Jordanians with the torture-tainted evidence. No one has pointed to anything controversial that he is alleged to have said since the mid-1990s. At that time he aligned himself with Islamic revolutionary movements opposing regimes that have now fallen, or which barely cling to power.

 

Our security services and politicians turned this man into an Islamic counter-terrorism myth. If instead they had chosen to talk to him, as I have many times, they would have found that the man behind the myth is a scholar with wide intellectual and cultural interests. He wrote books while he was in prison. His home is filled with books. His children have excelled at school, with help and encouragement from his daily phone calls from prison.

 

I have been a friend of Othman’s wife and daughters for some years, and have had many opportunities to talk to him in prison and when he was at home on bail. I’ve been struck by his dignity and lack of bitterness over his family’s treatment, and I believe that, rather than being scapegoated, his moral standards could have been useful in engaging Muslim youth and healing the wounds in our divided society.

Muslim groups react against the extradition of five Muslim suspect to the US

06 October 2012

 

On the 5th of October, Abu Hamza and four Muslims suspects were extradited to the US under terrorism charges. The group arrived in New York this week and the US attorney office in New York has said they would appear before court soon. Abu Hamza faces eleven charges in the US relating to hostage taking, conspiracy to establish a militant training camp, and calling for holy war in Afghanistan. He suffers from severe illnesses and has been portrayed as the most dangerous criminal by the British media. He suffers from depression, chronic sleep deprivation, diabetes and other ailments.

 

Barbar Ahmed who is the only British national among the five men has raised concerns among legal experts and human rights advocates. He is accused of running terrorist-funding websites in the UK. The UK authorities agreed to extradite him despite the fact that his alleged crimes were committed in Britain.  British courts on the other hand declined to prosecute him due to lack of evidence. Ahmad has been in prison since 2004, and has been held without charge for longer than any other British citizen.

 

Prime Minister David Cameron said “I’m absolutely delighted that Abu Hamza is now out of this country. Like the rest of the public I’m sick to the back teeth of people who come here, threaten our country, who stay at vast expense to the taxpayer and we can’t get rid of them.”

 

On the other hand, Muslim groups reacted strongly against the extradition of the five men. Hizb at-Tahrir, strongly condemned it in a statement: “We are disgusted – but not surprised – at the travesty that has been described as a judicial process, ending with a decision at the British High Court, which then lead to the extradition of five Muslims from the UK to the United States.”

 

Islamic Human Rights Commission, an NGO based in the UK, also strongly condemned the extradition:  “The decision to extradite UK citizens Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmed is a display of double standards by the so-called British Justice System… IHRC has campaigned for the release of Babar Ahmed and Talha Ahsan continuously and has urged their supporters to do the same. However, it is clear now that the British judiciary is not in place to serve the British people, and in this case has acted in the interest of the US. We would have thought that the days of the UK playing poodle to the US had left us when Tony Blair left office.

 

This verdict tells the world that the British judiciary is inadequate to deal with cases and has to extradite suspects to the US.”

Justice of the Peace for Muslims

May 4

 

The term Justice of the Peace is used to define informal judges, who neither have been trained as lawyers, nor act within the legal framework of German judiciary. The Justice of Peace act as brokers and mediate between rivaling families, victims and delinquents to avoid violence and bloodshed. For instance when an unmarried Turkish girl runs away with an Arabic boy and the “honor of family” is questioned; Justice of Peace is called to mediate between the families to find a peaceful and reasonable solution.

 

Islamic “parallel justice” has been a source of grievance and frustration for German judiciary, says German journalist Joachim Wagner who has published a book about the

Justice of the Peace. In his book, he claims “parallel justice” would be a threat for the rule of law as he believes some of these “judges” to be involved in a criminal milieu.

 

Vice president of the Berlin district court contradicts the discussion about a “parallel justice” and claims that the influence of this institute has been exaggerated. Only a few spectacular cases would cause high attraction for the public audience. Ethno-psychologist Ilhan Kizilhan sees the lack of confidence of migrants in the German judiciary system as a result of fear in their countries of origin. Many migrants come from countries with little tradition of rule of law, where there is little trust towards the judiciary and the police.