Five Stories From Britain’s Guantánamo: (2) Detainee BB


They call me BB. I can’t tell you my real name. I’m an Algerian and I’ve been in this country since 1995.

I’m 43 years old. I live with my wife and three children. I’ve got two girls and one boy — he’s only three. The bail conditions I’m under apply to me, but in reality they affect my whole family. The girls can’t have friends around. Nobody is allowed in unless they are Home Office cleared.

Someone asked me the other day, when was the last time I had seen my own friends. I had to stop and think. It’s been years.

Of course my wife misses all her friends too. She feels so isolated sometimes.

I can’t go out with the kids much, only between my set hours, when I’m allowed out. They don’t understand why. They ask me questions, like most kids. Normally as an adult you feel you can answer most of their questions, explain things, but in this case I know as much as they do. No more.

On the other hand no amount of explanation will be enough for my children when it comes to the police searches. They come and turn the whole house upside down. It scares my family.

I am an electrical engineer by trade. I used to love studying, thinking, learning. Now it’s all gone. My mind is empty. And I can’t sit still long enough to focus on anything.

I was taken to Long Lartin prison in 2005. The Home Office served me with a deportation order. They want to send me back to Algeria. But they can’t guarantee me a safe return. Algeria won’t sign the memorandum of understanding.

The Home Office don’t tell me why they want to send me back, when it could be dangerous for me. I do ask why. They say I’m a threat to national security. How did I become that?

Thinking about things, one issue sticks in my mind. Remember that famous speech? You know, when Tony Blair said all the rules of the game are changing? My thoughts always go back to this. Well, is this all part of that game? Are we the scapegoats?

You can’t even imagine the relief last week when it was decided I wasn’t going back to prison. The Home Office wanted to revoke my bail, because they said I wanted to abscond. That was based on secret evidence. Any reasonable person can see that my life is with my family — I do the shopping, I care for my family, I take the kids out. If I wasn’t here, who would do that?

I was really keen on sport once. I even did a gym qualification in prison, but my motivation has gone. It’s hard to keep pushing, when you don’t know what you are pushing against. I am here, like this, not moving forward, not going anywhere, stuck. I don’t know why. I want to know why. It’s natural to want answers. But everything on my case has been built on one thing and one thing only. I’m here today, like this, because of secret evidence.

With the permission of Detainee BB, this was read out, by the actor Andi Osho, at “Britain’s Guantánamo? The use of secret evidence and evidence based on torture in the UK courts,” a parliamentary meeting in the House of Commons, chaired by Diane Abbott MP, on March 30, 2009. The script was written by Saleyha Ahsan, and the material used was gained through a series of interviews.

This statement (the second of five) is part of a series of four articles and five statements examining the use of secret evidence in the British courts. For an introduction, see Britain’s Guantánamo: An Introduction, and for the first three articles, see Torture taints all our lives (published in the Guardian’s Comment is free), Britain’s Guantánamo: Calling For An End To Secret Evidence and Britain’s Guantánamo: Fact or Fiction? For the other statements, see: Five Stories From Britain’s Guantánamo: (1) Detainee Y, Five Stories From Britain’s Guantánamo: (3) Detainee U, Five Stories From Britain’s Guantánamo: (4) Hussain Al-Samamara and Five Stories From Britain’s Guantánamo: (5) Detainee Z.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed, and see here for my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.

For other articles dealing with Belmarsh, control orders, deportation bail, deportations and extraditions, see Deals with dictators undermined by British request for return of five Guantánamo detainees (August 2007), Britain’s Guantánamo: the troubling tale of Tunisian Belmarsh detainee Hedi Boudhiba, extradited, cleared and abandoned in Spain (August 2007), Guantánamo as house arrest: Britain’s law lords capitulate on control orders (November 2007), The Guantánamo Britons and Spain’s dubious extradition request (December 2007), Britain’s Guantánamo: control orders renewed, as one suspect is freed (February 2008), Spanish drop “inhuman” extradition request for Guantánamo Britons (March 2008), UK government deports 60 Iraqi Kurds; no one notices (March 2008), Repatriation as Russian Roulette: Will the Two Algerians Freed from Guantánamo Be Treated Fairly? (July 2008), Abu Qatada: Law Lords and Government Endorse Torture (February 2009), Ex-Guantánamo prisoner refused entry into UK, held in deportation centre (February 2009), Home Secretary ignores Court decision, kidnaps bailed men and imprisons them in Belmarsh (February 2009), Britain’s insane secret terror evidence (March 2009).

2 Responses

  1. Ann Alexander says...

    Of all my friends suffering under immigration bail whose stories were heard at the recent House of Commons meeting, for some reason I can’t explain, BB’s situation has hit me hardest. Perhaps because I have only got to know him recently and his suffering is freshest in my mind. His wife is finding it harder and harder to cope with the terrible restrictions on her husband and family. She is totally reliant on BB and the fear she felt when he was arrested on the orders of the Home Secretary after being released by the SIAC judge, can only be imagined as she knew she would not be able to cope without him – far away from any friends in a town she doesn’t know. Fortunately BB was released the next day but I worry about this family more than any of the others. BB is an exceptional husband and father and I am full of admiration that he has kept his sanity so far. Lets hope secret evidence is soon exposed for what it truely is – evidence extracted through torture – and this lovely family can try to get back their lives.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks again, Ann. Everything you say is very clear from BB’s statement. I also noticed that he was the only one of the five who used the word “scapegoat” — and it appears to be very apt indeed. Why on earth is the British government intent on sending him back to Algeria when even the secret evidence against him (untested, unchallenged, unproven) led the Law Lords to conclude that he was nothing more than a “small fish”?

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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