Race crime charges in England rise by 28%

The number of people charged by police with racially aggravated offenses rose by 28% last year, figures have shown. Out of a total of 7,430 cases, 6,123 defendants were taken to court between April 2005 and April 2006, the Crown Prosecution Service said. Statistics also showed 43 people were charged with religiously-aggravated offenses, a rise of almost 27%. Ken Macdonald QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, said fears of a backlash after the London bombs were unfounded. He said: “After the 7 July bombings it was feared that there would be a significant backlash against the Muslim community and that we would see a large rise in religiously-aggravated offenses. “The fears of a large rise in offenses appear to be unfounded. He said although there were more cases in July 2005 than for any other month, the rise did not continue into August. There were 12 cases in July after the bombings, and in half the defendants referred specifically to the London bombings, he added. One prosecution involved a man from South Yorkshire throwing a brick through his Muslim neighbor’s window and blaming Muslims for the bombings on the day they went off. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to nine months in prison for religiously-aggravated public order and criminal damage. In another case, a man was given a six-month sentence for religiously aggravated common assault after he physically and verbally assaulted a Muslim waiter in an Indian restaurant. The figures showed that the actual or perceived religion of the victim was known in 22 out of 43 religiously-motivated offenses. Of those, 18 were identified as Muslim, three as Christian and one as Sikh. In race offenses, the number of defendants pleading guilty rose by 2% to 71%. Overall 87% of race cases resulted in a conviction, while for religiously-aggravated charges, 98% of defendants were convicted. Mr Macdonald said: “Racist and religiously-aggravated crimes are particularly nasty because victims are targeted solely because of their identity or beliefs. “These crimes don’t just affect individual victims and their families but whole communities.” He said since January of this year, the CPS has held a series of evenings with Muslim communities across the country, offering reassurance and information.

‘Honour Killing’ Appeal Refused

A father who tried to hire a hitman to carry out the “honour killing” of his son-in-law has lost a bid to have his prison term cut. Mohammed Arshad, 51, was jailed for seven years after being found guilty in 2003 of incitement to murder. The devout Muslim from Dundee took the action after his daughter married without his permission. Appeal judges said they were not convinced that the former justice of the peace received an unfair sentence. A local Islamic group had asked the court to impose community service. Arshad, a highly respected member of the Muslim community in Dundee, had an appeal against his conviction refused in March this year, but he has continued to challenge the length of the sentence. He put a price of _1,000 on son-in-law Abdullah Yasin’s head shortly after he married his daughter Insha in 2001. ‘Previous good character‘ Arshad objected to the marriage and had not given his permission for it to go ahead. However, he was caught after the “hitman” he approached turned out to be a Tayside Police detective. Arshad argued that his seven-year sentence was excessive and failed to take into account his previous good character and his state of health when he carried out the crime. A petition submitted to the court by the Tayside Islamic and Cultural Education Society, signed by more than 150 people, claimed Arshad was an honoured member of their community and asked judges to consider allowing him to serve his sentence in the community. Lawyers claimed Arshad was affected by ongoing depression, which was a “significant factor” in prompting him to act as he did. ‘Grave offence’ However, the judges at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh rejected the arguments, ruling that previous good character and the fact that he was unlikely to repeat the offence were not key mitigating factors. Lord Macfadyen and Lord Penrose stated in a written judgement: “We find nothing that persuades us that the sentencing judge erred in selecting a period of seven years’ imprisonment as the appropriate punishment for the appellant’s crimes. “What is of the greatest significance is that, when circumstances arose in which the appellant felt that his religious and cultural attitudes had been offended, he was prepared on that account to commit the extremely grave offence of incitement to murder. “We would add that we do not consider it appropriate in the circumstances to accord material weight to the views expressed in the petition which was laid before us.”

German Paper Accused Of Insulting Islam

BERLIN – A Turkish lobby group said yesterday it has filed a criminal complaint against a German newspaper for printing a series of blasphemous Danish cartoons last month. It said the complaint was filed with prosecutors in the northern city of Cologne, charging the daily Die Welt with violating Germany’s criminal code by printing 12 cartoons despite global unrest sparked by their initial appearance in a Danish paper. While freedom of the Press is guaranteed by the German constitution, the country’s law forbids public insults against religious societies, beliefs and groups that support specific world views. It is not the point of a free Press to insult the religious sensibilities of nearly 3 million Muslims in Germany with provocations of this kind, Abdullah Emil, general secretary of the Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD), said. Guenther Feld, a public prosecutor in Cologne, where the UETD is based, confirmed receiving the complaint and said he would study it. Even if the prosecutors decided to formally press charges, Feld told Reuters it was unclear whether it would be handled in Cologne or Hamburg, where the daily’s owner, German newspaper publisher Axel Springer, is based. Axel Springer’s spokeswoman, Silvie Rundel, said there were currently no official legal complaints, or complaints by the German media watchdog pending against Die Welt. On Wednesday, Denmark’s own public prosecutor decided not to press charges against a newspaper for allegedly violating Denmark’s blasphemy law by printing the 12 blasphemous drawings which triggered widespread Muslim anger. The cartoons, later reprinted in other countries, provoked protests among Muslims. At least 50 people were killed in protests in the Middle East and Asia, three Danish embassies were attacked and many Muslims boycotted Danish goods. Last month a German court convicted a businessman of insulting Islam. He was given a one-year jail sentence, suspended for five years, and ordered to complete 300 hours of community service.

German Court Convicts Man For Insulting Islam

DUESSELDORF, Germany (Reuters) – A German court on Thursday convicted a businessman of insulting Islam by printing the word “Koran” on toilet paper and offering it to mosques. The 61-year-old man, identified only as Manfred van H., was given a one-year jail sentence, suspended for five years, and ordered to complete 300 hours of community service, a district court in the western German town of Luedinghausen ruled. The conviction comes after a Danish newspaper printed cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad — sparking violent protests around the world from Muslims who saw the images as sacrilegious and an attack on their beliefs. Manfred van H. printed out sheets of toilet paper bearing the word “Koran” shortly after a group of Muslims carried out a series of bomb attacks in London in July 2005. He sent the paper to German television stations, magazines and some 15 mosques. Prosecutors said that in an accompanying letter Manfred van H. called Islam’s holy book a “cookbook for terrorists.” He also offered his toilet paper for sale on the Internet at a price of 4 euros ($4.76) per roll, saying the proceeds would go toward a “memorial to all the victims of Islamic terrorism.” The maximum sentence for insulting religious beliefs under the German criminal code is three years in prison.

Italian Prison Warily Allows Muslims To Pray; European Jails Often Are Breeding Grounds For Radical Islam

Milan — The guards, heavy brass keys swinging from their belts, open and shut the metal gates to each floor of the labyrinthine Bollate prison as the Muslim call to prayer echoes in the corridors. Prisoners rush to the makeshift mosques that have sprouted in every building. At the end of the hall on the fourth floor of Building 1, a hand-lettered paper sign proclaims, in Italian, “moschea” — mosque. Furnishings inside are sparse, just three green prayer rugs, pointing eastward, and on the wall a plaque with verses from the Quran. Abdelfattah Jendoubi, serving a sentence on drug charges, throws on a dishdasha shirt, pulls off his shoes and makes his way to the room. The 42-year-old Tunisian is joined by two other men. He is apologetic, saying turnout is better on Fridays. Generally, though, younger Muslims in the prison are not very religious, he says. He hopes to change that. “I want to teach the young beautiful things,” he says, but it is unclear whether authorities, who lack Arabic speakers to monitor his preaching, would agree with his definition of beauty. “They have to change their lives. God wants them to leave the life of crime.” Jendoubi’s mission is a difficult one: reaching out to the young men confined within these sterile walls on the outskirts of a city known the world over as Italy’s vibrant fashion capital. About 30 percent of the inmates in Bollate are Muslim, officials say; that’s in a country where Muslims make up just 2 percent of the population of 58 million, although there is a higher concentration of them in northern Italy around Milan. Their burgeoning numbers in prison are a reproach to Europe’s efforts to integrate its immigrants, and a boost to radical imams and hard-core militants who use cellblocks to attract followers and spread a doctrine of violence. Many of the Muslim inmates in Bollate arrived in Italy alone, sometimes as young as 14, hoping to find an uncle or a cousin, or even a distant relative, and burdened with the overly optimistic expectations of their family back in Morocco, or Tunisia or Algeria. Once in Italy, they can find themselves trapped in a vicious circle. Unable to obtain proper work and residency documents, they live on the fringes, perhaps turning to crime to survive. Marginalized in society, they are doubly marginalized in prison, outsiders in an institution where Italian clout and influence are supreme. Their hopes of sending money to families who sacrificed to send them to Europe are vanquished. They probably will be deported, and going home as ex-cons will bring shame. That fate probably awaits Bilel Sefir, an inmate with an air of quiet desperation. Sefir left his native Tunisia for France four years ago, when he was 17. After a couple of years he moved to Italy, thinking, mistakenly, that it would be easier to obtain residency papers. Alone but for a friend who had come with him from France, he found odd jobs as a plumber and was able to support himself for about a year, until he was arrested in a crackdown on drug dealers. “I made a big mistake,” he says in a voice barely above a whisper. Tall but slight, with wavy dark hair, Sefir received a relatively short sentence of 14 months and expects to be sent back to Tunisia after his release. Like Jendoubi, he takes some comfort in his faith. Sefir says he is able to pray five times a day, as devout Muslims do, with little trouble. In fact, he finds it easier to pray inside jail than outside, where mosques are far away and tolerance more rare. “I have the time,” he says. “Once in a while, other prisoners make fun of me and ask me why I do it the way I do and why do I keep praying. But most people are respectful. “I pray mostly that God forgives me for what I’ve done.” Jendoubi, in his quest to save souls, sees far more hardened cases in Bollate. A greater number of young Muslim men in the prison are like Mohammed Derrag, 23, a heavily tattooed Moroccan. He does not pray at all, saying, “This is not the moment.” Derrag is caught between his family and heritage, which he acknowledges he has betrayed with his criminal ways, and the gritty world in which he survives. “I was born a Muslim and always will be a Muslim,” he says. “But my family prays. Not me.” Even some young immigrants who seem destined for better things can get caught up in a hard-luck underground. As baby-faced as Derrag is tough, Yunis Qabili, 19, landed in jail after being caught with friends who had drugs. Unlike most other inmates, Qabili has lived more than half his life in Italy with his parents and siblings, who arrived legally from Morocco. The teenager, who says he speaks better Italian than Arabic, worked as a mechanic. But he fell in with a bad crowd, and now he just wants to do his time (a year), get out and finish high school. “The police will say they don’t (discriminate), but I think they look more for Moroccans,” Qabili says, narrowing his eyes and taking a long drag on his cigarette. Mirroring friction on the streets, relations between Italian and immigrant prisoners are often strained. A recent — and not uncommon — brawl landed several inmates in the infirmary. In the prison’s gyms, cafeteria and library, the inmates usually divide into cliques. Muslims lift weights and exercise together, and share pork-free meals. Bulletin boards advertise Italian lessons for Arabic speakers. The library has copies of the Quran — as well as works by the Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, known of late for her anti-Muslim screeds. For a while, the prison employed “cultural mediators” who could translate both language and cultural sensitivities, but there’s no budget for them anymore. None of the inmates at Bollate talks about waging jihad; one youth recoils physically and begins to shake when asked. But authorities in Italy, Spain, Britain and elsewhere in Europe are all too aware of the ease with which prison populations have become fodder for militant networks operating in their midst. Throughout Europe, some suspects in notorious cases, including the recent London bombings, are said to have been radicalized in prison, and a number of terrorist plots are known to have been hatched behind bars. Muktar Said Ibrahim, an Eritrean immigrant arrested in a failed bombing attempt in London in late July, obtained British citizenship in September 2004 despite having served a five-year prison sentence for armed robberies. He found Islam in the same penitentiary where radical imams converted Richard Reid, the convicted shoe-bomber of Jamaican descent imprisoned in the United States for trying to blow up a Paris-to-Miami flight. And so the delicate balance for wardens such as Lucia Castellano at Bollate is allowing inmates to practice their faith without letting the institution be used to recruit and indoctrinate extremists. “I’m a little scared of the imams,” she says. “They don’t speak Italian, we can’t understand them, and in Milan that can be quite dangerous.” As a consequence, and in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, she has banned imams from outside the prison. Milan has long been known as a center of radical Islam, and one of its principal mosques was named by U.S. and Italian authorities as a likely European headquarters for al Qaeda. Instead, Castellano allows the Muslims in each cellblock to appoint an imam from among themselves. Still, the inability to understand the language being spoken in many cells is worrisome, says Castellano, a red-haired native of Naples, one of Italy’s toughest cities. Her office is decorated with Andy Warhol prints of Marilyn Monroe on one wall, a crucifix on another. “Each of my head guards can tell me who the boss (of the Muslim inmates) is on each floor,” she says. “It does not mean that they are terrorists, but they are organized. We are paying attention. We are watching.” But the warden and her guards can only guess at what devout prisoners such as Jendoubi are preaching. On the fourth floor of Building 1, Italian inmates are giving hard looks to the trio of Muslims gathered to pray in the room designated as a mosque. They keep their distance, smoking cigarettes. Jendoubi, the Tunisian, says he avoid
s the Italian inmates. But he praises the prison for allowing the Muslim inmates to pray. A carpenter by trade who has lived many years in Italy, he was not religious when he was sent to prison, he says, but has used his time in the three years since to study the Quran. Now he prays 12 times a day, sometimes rising well before dawn to do so. “I didn’t pray before,” says Jendoubi, who has a thin, graying beard. “But as I read more, I saw it was the right way.” On this particular midday, another Tunisian calls out the summons to prayer. He, Jendoubi and a third man then move inside the one-room mosque. The three men kneel on the small rugs and pray. They bow eastward, toward a window looking out on the cold gray concrete of the prison, and the walls topped with barbed wire.

The Murder Of A Turkish Woman In Berlin; A German Court Goes Face-To-Face With Honor Killings

By Sven Roebel Hatin Sürücü tried to live her own life — and may have been killed for it. The 23-year-old Turkish woman was shot point-blank in the face in February in Berlin. Many believe her own family was behind the murder and her brother is now on trial. When Hatin Sürücü was killed, walking on the sidewalk near her home in Berlin’s Tempelhof neigborhood, she was holding a cigarette. It was a French Gauloises, her favorite brand, and while emergency medical personnel tried to revive her with adrenaline shots and electroshocks, her cigarette slowly burned out between the middle and index fingers of her left hand. The photos taken by police at the murder scene in Berlin show many fine streams of blood flowing from the young woman’s head and merging in a dark, shiny pool. It looks almost as though someone had carefully combed Hatin’s long, dark hair as her head lay on the sidewalk. Her opened pack of cigarettes protrudes from the breast pocket of her corduroy jacket, a dark blue cardboard box with an advertising slogan printed on it in French: “Liberte toujours” — “Freedom forever.” The district attorney’s office in Berlin is convinced that Sürücü died on the evening of Feb. 7 because she had adopted the cigarette pack slogan as her own. Because she felt that being able to smoke in public was one of life’s ordinary freedoms. Because she had the courage to walk around without a head scarf. Because she felt it was her right to live in her own apartment and to disobey the men in her family — and to decide for herself who to love and who not to love. The murderer shot the 23-year-old Hatin Sürücü three times in the face, in rapid succession and at point-blank range, using a 7.65 mm pistol. It was like an execution. According to investigators in the case, the shots that killed this single mother of a six-year-old son represent the last stage in an Arab ritual intended to restore what the killer believed was the “family honor.” In a Berlin criminal court on Wednesday, three of her brothers will face charges of having maliciously killed their defenseless sister. Investigators believe that the defendants may have carried out the execution as part of a death sentence imposed by a “family council,” which assigned the role of executioner to the youngest son, 19-year-old Ayhan, while his brothers, Mütlü, 26, and Alpaslan, 24, were responsible for obtaining the pistol and planning the murder. The men have either denied the charges or refused to comment, but this isn’t the only problem authorities have encountered in the case. The case has long since become a matter of public debate that extends well beyond the articles of criminal law. Germans want to know what’s wrong with a country that has seen an estimated 50 so-called honor killings in the past decade. Why, people want to know, is Germany incapable of protecting its female citizens against violent attacks by Muslim husbands, fathers, or brothers? Some commentators have focused on the political symbolism that elevates the death of this attractive, modern woman to a kind of martyrdom, but they ignore the parallel world in which Sürücü was killed. If there’s any explanation for her death, the best place to look for it would be in Berlin’s heavily Turkish Kreuzberg district, where the presumed killers lived and where life follows two basic laws — the law of the neighborhood and the law of the Koran. On the one hand, there’s the Sürücü family’s four-room apartment on the fifth floor of a renovated building. The family prays five times a day and dogs, considered impure by devout Muslims, are barred from the apartment. Hatin’s archly conservative father, who comes from the Kurdish province of Erzurum in Turkey’s eastern Anatolia region, has lived in Germany for 24 years but hardly speaks a word of German. Her mother wears a head scarf, adding a veil when speaking with strangers. Ayhan, the suspected killer, grew up in this world. He is a well-behaved Muslim boy who honors his parents, text-messages secret love poems to his girlfriend and, even as a 19-year-old man, has no problem sleeping in a bunk bed in his childhood room. A different form of honor prevails in the streets of Kreuzberg. It’s the kind of honor that can be violated by as little as an unwanted glance into someone’s eyes. When this kind of honor is assailed, the way to regain respect might involve fists, knives, or even guns. Here, in the old territory of the notorious youth gang known as “36 Boys” after one of Kreuzberg’s zipcodes — Ayhan Sürücü is known by a different name. He calls himself “Carlito,” after the hero in the American gangster film “Carlito’s Way,” in which Al Pacino plays a melancholy former dealer who tries to start a new life, only to find his criminal past catching up with him. No one knows exactly how many times the Kreuzberg Carlito has rented the film, but at some point he must have adopted the notion of an “honorable gangster” as a way of life — one in which the laws of the neighborhood blended, fatally, with those of the Koran. At age 15, Ayhan was accused of throwing bricks at police officers during the May Day riots in 2000. (He complains that his friends sold him out to the police “for a lousy $500.”) Four months later he was caught handing out flyers proclaiming that “Jews and infidels” were responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks. Then he claimed that he was secretly in contact with Turkish Islamist Metin Kaplan’s “Caliphate State,” and in October 2001, apparently in an effort to provoke the authorities, he signed a document in which he claimed that he was “also a member of the PKK” — the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which is fighting for a Kurdish state. Later he told the commission investigating his sister’s murder that many things in his family’s past “weren’t pretty.” His brothers, he said, “were not always happy in their marriages.” Nor was his sister Hatin. These unhappy circumstances had always made him wish for a different life, he said, a better life — just like his Hollywood hero, Carlito. The Carlito wannabe needed the right girl for his new lifestyle, and a neighborhood schoolgirl named Melek, 18 years old, seemed to fit the bill. Ayhan worshipped her like a goddess. He sent her text messages praising her “soulful gaze” and “sweet smile.” After dating her for all of four weeks he wanted to marry her. Melek’s parents weren’t so sure, especially when they heard that the young man wanted their daughter to wear a head scarf. On Feb. 7, the boundaries between Ayhan’s twin worlds dissolved. Melek later told the police about a strange conversation she had had with him: He said he was deeply unhappy and that he could only be happy were he to free himself from an old burden. Something terrible had happened in his family when he was 14, he said, something involving his sister. Ayhan apparently told Melek that if she knew what he had been through and witnessed, she would understand why he had to do something his older brothers should have done years ago: kill Hatin. Investigators now believe that Hatin was once raped by one of the men in her family. She was a victim of incest, and under her community’s crude code of honor it was not the rapist but the victim who should be held responsible. Melek said that on the evening of the murder, “Carlito” kept glancing at his watch, gave her E100, and said to pass the money to an acquaintance if she didn’t hear from him. The next day, the airwaves filled with news of Hatin Sürücü’s murder. That afternoon, Ayhan called Melek and told her to meet him at the Kottbusser Tor subway station, and the two then took the subway to the Bahnhof Zoo stop. While they sat on the train, Melek says, she asked him: “Ayhan, was it you?” and he answered, “Yes, I did it.” He spoke very quietly and rested his head on her shoulder, and they both fell silent for the rest of the trip. Only later, says Melek, did Ayhan give details of the murder — that he went to Hatin’s apartment and sat in her kitchen; that he noticed a prayer rug and was pleased his sister had apparently started to pray again; that he asked Hatin to walk him to the bu
s. Near the stop, Ayhan pulled out a pistol. Before pulling the trigger he allegedly asked Hatin whether she regretted her sins. Melek told the police that while Ayhan told her this story he mimed a pistol with his thumb and index finger and aimed at her head. Then, she says, he told her he panicked and ran from the scene, boarded a bus, and hid his blood-covered hand in his pocket. The bus passed the crime scene and Ayhan saw his sister lying on the sidewalk. The prosecutors in this case will want to know two things: Why Melek failed to report her boyfriend’s intention to commit murder, and how credible her testimony is. When Ayhan Sürücü was questioned by criminal investigators five days later, he swore, by everything that was holy to him, including his love for Melek, that he had nothing to do with the death of Hatin. One of the interrogators asked him which sentence he believes is appropriate for the murderer of his sister. Ayhan answered without hesitation: “May I be frank? If it were permitted by law, I would hang him — even if he were my own brother.”

Belgian Terror Suspects Lose Appeal

BRUSSELS – Four men condemned in Belgium in connection with terror-related offences on Wednesday failed in a bid to have their sentences reduced. A Brussels court on Wednesday found that one of the men, Tarek Maaroufi, should actually serve a longer sentence than he had originally received and increased the length of time he should spend in prison from six to seven years. Maaroufi was found guilty of helping to acquire forged papers and of recruiting fighters to be trained at a camp in Afghanistan run by the al-Qaeda network.

Muslim ‘Hate’ Preacher Loses Appeal

By Adam Blenford A Muslim preacher jailed for nine years after he urged his followers to rise up and kill the “enemies of Islam” lost an appeal against his conviction today, but had his sentence cut by two years. Jamaican-born Abdullah el-Faisal, 39, a former preacher at Brixton mosque in south London, encouraged his followers to kill Jews, Americans and non-believers in a series of inflammatory speeches and recordings. He told schoolboys that they would spend eternity in paradise with 72 virgins if they fought and died in a jihad, or holy war. El-Faisal was sentenced to seven years for soliciting murder and a further two years for inciting racial hatred at the Old Bailey last March. His sentences were to run concurrently. The judge recommended that el-Faisal, of Stratford, east London, be deported at the end of his sentence. The ground-breaking trial was the first prosecution of a Muslim cleric in this country.